‘Increased Contraceptive Use’ Sees Record Drop in US Teen Pregnancies

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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A new analysis by Guttmacher Institute has found that a huge drop in US teen pregnancies has been caused by improved contraception use.

Principal research scientist and lead author Dr Laura Lindberg said that during the time period analysed, there was no significant change in the sexual activity of adolescents. She said that instead, the new data implies that the recent decline in the risk of pregnancy for teenagers was driven by better use of contraception.

The researchers found that although sexual activity in teenage girls remained constant between 2007 and 2012, the percentage of teenagers using at least one birth control method the last time they had intercourse increased significantly from 78% to 86%.

According to the researchers, use of all effective methods such as birth control pills or the IUD increased between 2007 and 2009. There was a slight increase in the use of the implant or IUD in this period. There were non-significant increases in use of the condom and usage of the patch or ring declined considerably between 2007 and 2012.

Changes in the use of the contraceptive pill caused a decline of 28% in pregnancy risk index between 2007 and 2012. As well as driving this decrease, the improvement in contraceptive use also helped to neutralise a 6% rise in pregnancy risk caused by an increase in sexual activity among teenagers. The pregnancy risk index is a summary of pregnancy risk among all adolescent women. It estimates the influence of changes in the level of contraceptive risk as well as changes in the level of recent sexual activity.

It was reported in April that the pregnancy rate in the US declined by 23% between 2008 and 2011 for women aged 15 to 19, a decline of 68.2 pregnancies per 1000 women to 52.4. Meaning that 5% of teenagers fell pregnant in 2011, the researchers said this was the lowest rate observed in the last 40 years. There were declines across all states and ethnic and racial groups, although there were some remaining disparities. The researchers discovered a rate of 31.3 births per 1000 teenage girls, which was down from 40.2 in 2008.

Data from the National Survey of Family Growth was used in the new study. The survey was conducted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and was based on contraceptive use, contraceptive failures and sexual activity.

The study’s authors said it’s important to make sure teenagers have access to medically accurate contraception information. They added that there has been a decline in teenagers who report being given formal birth control instruction, whereas the number who receive instruction on abstinence has increased.

Doctors were recently urged by the American Academy of Paediatricians to help fill in the gaps of sexual education with their teenage patients. They said that abstinence-heavy education can be a concern for doctors in terms of reducing STIs and unplanned pregnancies, because these programmes don’t always include information on contraceptives.