Since the 1990’s, U.S. teen pregnancy rates have been dropping steadily. Unplanned, teen pregnancies can have significantly negative emotional, social and financial consequences. When teen pregnancy rates started dropping, it looked like one of the contributing factors to the decrease in teen pregnancies, was the increase in oral sex and access to online porn, not something we really wanted to celebrate.
Now that the numbers of teen births continue to drop dramatically (woo-hoo!) we are ready to celebrate! Although it’s hard to know exactly WHY we continue to see such significant drops, here are some reasons worthy of celebrating:
Younger teens feel less pressure to be sexually active. Despite the sexually explicit messages portrayed through the media at teens, boys and girls today understand abstinence is a viable option and delaying intercourse is perfectly acceptable.
With social media and texting, teens today are able to maintain relationships with one another without physical proximity. If you’ve ever watched the TV show Catfish, you’ll see people building very emotionally intimate relationships without ever having met! It’s impossible to get pregnant when your relationship is virtual!
Today’s girls are brought up with the idea that they can do anything they want. When girls get involved in school, sports, prepare for college and dream about careers, their inspiring future plans make them feel significant and hopeful. Girls who don’t see themselves having exciting futures tend to get pregnant at earlier ages.
Contraceptive use is up! Although not used every time, condom use has gone up to approximately 70-90% of teens using condoms with first and last intercourse. We’ll look to celebrate a decrease in STD rates in a few years. Long-term hormonal contraceptive use for teen girls is up also, now reaching 4.5%.
The U.S. still has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world so we still have some work to do. We are thrilled that condoms are the most commonly used birth control amongst teens, but disappointed that “withdrawl” is the second most popular method. 11% of teen girls describe their first intercourse as unwanted and we’d like that to be zero.
One thing that still stands true: Parental involvement is key to keeping teen pregnancy rates low. Studies show that when teens abstain or delay intercourse, they do so because they’ve had discussions with their parents about their values and the development of their character. Teens who have information about birth control and value their futures, are more likely to use contraceptives when the time is right. Let’s keep up the good work!