Teen Pregnancy Rates Decrease Because of More Contraception (Not Less Sex)

photo courtesy of pexels.com
By Amie Newman |

News flash: Contraception works.

The teen pregnancy rate in the United States declined 25 percent from 2007 to 2011.  The decline can be seen in all states and among all racial and ethnic groups, although some groups experienced greater declines than others.

According to a new study, “Understanding the Decline in Adolescent Fertility in the United States, 2007–2012”, adolescent pregnancy rates declined even as sexual activity by adolescents (ages 15-19) remained steady:

Like what you're reading? Help us expand access to accurate information on health and sexuality.

Donate Today!

“There was no significant change in adolescent sexual activity during this time period,” says lead author Dr. Lindberg. “Rather, our new data suggest that recent declines in teens’ risk of pregnancy — and in their pregnancy rates — are driven by increased contraceptive use.”

This is great news. Teens are not only using contraception more regularly, but they are using more effective methods of contraception as well. The report found that there were “significant increases” in the use of any method of contraception, multiple methods of contraception, and highly effective methods of contraception.

The increase in contraceptive has led not only to decreasing teen pregnancy rates but also to decreasing abortion and birth rates. Teen pregnancy rates, abortion rates, and birth rates in the United States have all reached their lowest levels in four decades.

The report is quick to note, however, that although these declines are substantial, the United States continues to have higher adolescent birth and pregnancy rates than other developed countries. The adolescent pregnancy rate in the U.S. is 52 per 1000 females. This is more than six times as high as Switzerland (8 per 1,000) and more than twice as high as France (25 per 1,000). In these and other European countries, there is a comfort, openness, and willingness to discuss sexual activity and governmental support for pragmatic policies that ensure comprehensive sexuality education.

The majority of teen pregnancies are unintended. In other words, teens have sex and they want to be able to protect themselves from pregnancy, so we need to make sure they’re given the information and access to tools to make the best decisions for their bodies and lives.

Far too much of sex education in the United States is of the “just say no” variety. We know that preaching abstinence doesn’t keep young people from having sex — and it definitely doesn’t keep young women from getting pregnant. In fact, it’s just the opposite. States with abstinence-only education have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country.

Progressive social policies including greater access to educational opportunities for young women and the legalization of abortion contributed to declining adolescent pregnancy and birth rates in the the United States and Western Europe throughout the second half of the 20th century.

So if we want to continue to drive U.S. teen pregnancy rates and risk down, we need to keep up the pressure and push for evidence-based policies that actually help young people, as Heather Boonstra, Guttmacher’s Director of Public Policy says:

Teens’ increased use of contraceptives indicates their increased commitment to protecting themselves from risk. Policy discussions should focus on supporting teen contraceptive use generally, including ensuring access to a full range of contraceptive education, counseling and methods.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 Comments

  1. Olivia says:

    Now this is a strange topic for me because I am on both sides of the spectrum. I do not necessarily agree with abortion so if using different types of contraception keeps those abortion levels down, then I would have to agree. One of the many types of contraceptives that are on the rise in today’s day and age is birth control. My thought process on the use of birth control is that I believe teens are starting on the pill way too early in life. They are telling their parents it is to “control their period;” however, they are really on it to avoid getting pregnant. Young teenage women need to get to know their body and mature before they start participating in sexual intercourse. In this article, you claim, “Teen pregnancy rates, abortion rates, and birth rates in the United States have all reached their lowest levels in four decades.” This is exciting because too many teenagers were getting pregnant and giving birth to children with a terrible environment to grow up in. However, I still believe young teenagers should not even be in these kinds of situations in the first place. They shouldn’t have to worry about getting pregnant at that age, they need to worry about simple things in life like what they are going to wear to school the next day or how well they did on that math quiz last week.
    My thought on abortion is that a woman should have the right to choose whether or not she wants to abort if she had not given consent to sex, yet the male forced it upon her. This situation would be a rape case. However, if you and your partner are having sexual intercourse, and you happen to get pregnant, then you should have to deal with the responsibilities of having a child. You knew what you were doing so that baby should not have to lose its life because you made a mistake.

  2. Julia says:

    I would like to think that the decrease in teen pregnancy rates, abortion rates, and birth rates is in part due to the fact that sexual education has increased dramatically in schools. There used to be such a stigma against young girls to keep their virginity and to remain ‘pure’, however I think that is just unreasonable. This mindset sparked abstinence only programs that did not give students the resources they needed when the were sexually active; and I think this is what contributed to higher teen pregnancy, abortion, and birth rates a decade or two decades ago. Now, this decrease in pregnancy that was seen was not due to the fact that teen’s ages 15 to 19 were not having less sex, it was due to the fact that they had more education and contraceptive options. I agree that this is great news because this is a huge step in the right direction to keep adolescents in the United States safe and having safe sex. I think it is important to realize that it is not possible to keep adolescents from having sex, like you stated. I am not for abortion unless there is strong reasoning behind doing so; with that being said, it is so critically important that the adolescents are educated and are provided options for sexual education to keep them safe. I think you made a good point that while the United States has made improvements with their sexual education, we are still behind some other countries. I think this could be in part because still to this day sex education is only mandated in 22 states. And within those 22 states, only 13 states require the information they provide to be medically accurate. I completely agree that the only way the US will continue to improve these teen pregnancy rates is by giving factual sex education classes.

  3. Megan Puckett says:

    There were several good points made in your post. The decrease in teen pregnancy rates and birth rates may have had something to do with the fact that sex education has increased in the past few years, or at least I would like to think it helped these numbers. People, even myself at one time, used to think that teenage pregnancy was such a terrible thing and it was expected for teenage girls to remain virgins for a while, but now I believe this idea is simply irrational. It is this way of thinking that caused the abstinence only programs to begin in the first place and with that came no resources for those who were participating in sexual activities to do so in a safe way. This lack of resources (contraceptives and education) and way of thinking is what led to these increasing numbers of teen pregnancy and abortion. The decrease in the numbers has now been proven to be due to more resources and contraceptives being made available to teens, it is not because they are having sex less. I can agree that this is an awesome change towards keeping teens safe while having sex and not feeling as if they must remain abstinent. Because I am someone who does not believe in abortion, I think it is important that these resources and education are offered so that abortion can ultimately be avoided (hopefully, although not in all cases). Although the United States is improving, there is still much room for more and this could in part be because only about half of the states in the US are mandated for sex education and only a little over half of those have to teach accurate information. I can agree that to keep these numbers decreasing, we must strive to have everyone teaching correct sex education and trying to help these teenagers!!