The Surprising Reason American Teen Pregnancy Rates Are Dropping
Don’t believe everything pop culture says about teens.
Image by Sherwood/Pixabay.
THE GOOD NEWS:
Education and health awareness have helped curtail the rise in teen birth rates.
Over the past 10 years, Americans have been able to slash the teen birth rate in half, bringing the number of births per average 1,000 teenage girls down from 41.5 to 20.3, Vox reports. What’s even more promising? Not only have teenagers been getting pregnant less and less frequently since 2007, researchers have also seen a 9% drop in teen birth rates in the past year alone.
What’s behind this positive change? To the chagrin of abstinence-only educators, it’s not for lack of experimentation. Teens today seem to be engaging in sexual activity just as often as they did a decade ago. According to a Journal of Adolescent Health study, 43% of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 reported engaging in sexual activity in 2007, while 45% of girls the same age reported the same in 2012.
Instead, the reason behind this positive shift, researchers say, has to do with better, more consistent use of contraceptives. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit devoted to research and reproductive health, the percentage of teens who reported using at least one birth control method rose from 78% in 2007 to 86% in 2012. Again, “there was no significant change in adolescent sexual activity during this time period,” lead author Laura Lindberg said of the findings. “Rather, our new data suggest that recent declines in teens’ risk of pregnancy — and in their pregnancy rates — are driven by increased contraceptive use.” Teens are also using more reliable forms of contraception, like birth control pills and IUDs, than condoms alone.
As with most health concerns, education and awareness are key first steps toward improving the well-being of the country as a whole. Hopefully, this research supports a reasonable approach to teenage sex education that includes better access to contraception.