Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Reducing Teen Pregnancy

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Reducing Teen Pregnancy

Article excerpt

The teen birth rate in the United States dropped to an all-time low in 2013, the latest year for which data are available, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Osterman 2015). The record low rate was 26.5 births per 1,000 teens ages 15-19, a 10% drop from 2012. That drop followed a 36% decline in the teen birth rate since 2007 and a 57% drop since 1991.

"It is just an absolutely remarkable trend," Brady Hamilton, a CDC statistician who coauthored the report, told HealthDay news service. Hamilton attributed the decline to public ad campaigns that highlight the downsides of being a young mother (Thompson 2015).

Another factor may be that 86% of teens ages 15-19 said they used contraception the last time they had sex, according to a separate CDC report (2015a). However, most used birth control pills and condoms instead of the more effective long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs): subdermal implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs), according to a CDC press release (CDC 2015b).

"Long-acting reversible contraception is safe for teens, easy to use, and very effective," CDC principal deputy director Ileana Arias said in the press release (CDC 2015b). "We need to remove barriers and increase awareness, access, and availability of long-acting reversible contraception." Using either type of LARC "can prevent pregnancy for three to 10 years, depending on the method," the CDC says (2015b).

LARCs are recommended for sexually active teens by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) (CDC 2015b; AAP 2014; ACOG 2015). Teens should also know that LARCs are not designed to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The only way to completely prevent STDs is to abstain from sexual contact. For sexually active teens, the best way to reduce the chance of getting an STD is by using a condom every time.

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Classroom activity

"Boosting teens' awareness and understanding of LARCs could be an important step toward helping reduce the teen pregnancy rate even further," says Mary Lou Gavin, senior medical editor at KidsHealth.org and past president of AAP's Delaware chapter.

If it aligns with your school's sexual health curriculum and policies (including obtaining parental permission if required) and is age appropriate, have your students research and write brief explanations of the physiology and biochemistry behind each contraceptive method (see "On the web" for pediatrician-approved articles on various contraceptive methods). …

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