Teen pregnancy drops 40 percent, a 70 year low

By Danny Ciamprone

Over the past 20 years, the teen pregnancy rate has dropped by 40 percent, making it the lowest rate in 70 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Despite this, 400,000 teen girls, aged 15-19, still give birth each year in the United States, according to a 2011 report by the CDC containing data from 2009.

The new findings show 12 percent of sexually active teens did not use birth control the first time they had sex, which is down from 16 percent in 1991.

The report also shows U.S. birth rates for teens are nine times higher than any other developed country. Renee Brown-Bryant, associate director of CDC health communications, said there is no extensive research as to why this is, but there are many hypotheses.

“We know in some other countries there are different health care systems,” Brown-Bryant said. “This may be why they have wider and better access to contraceptives. In other countries there is perhaps a difference in the values with talking about sexual and reproductive health.”

Brown-Bryant said there are many services the government provides right now for both male and female reproductive health, including Title X, which provides access to contraceptive services, supplies and information to all who want and need them. This is typically given to persons from low-income families, Brown-Bryant said.

“In some sense it’s just a matter of getting people to the door because the services are there for people who need them,” she said. “On the other hand I think everybody understands that you have to find service providers that are willing and able to provide teen-friendly services.”

Another issue Brown-Bryant brought up was the fact many teens do not want parents to know they are on birth control, so they choose not to use it.

“If you are prescribed a contraceptive and someone doesn’t know how to bill it, all of a sudden a parent is going to know their daughter went for contraceptive services,” she said. “Depending on age and locality, confidentiality and privacy is there. You don’t necessarily have to have parental consent depending on age and state laws.”

Not just confidentiality, but financial costs and education play a role in safe sex, Brown-Bryant said.

“The price of female contraceptives has gone way up,” she said. “It could be $30 a month for females to get an oral contraceptive. And for men, the question is ‘has someone really taught them how to use a condom correctly?'”

In a report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Illinois ranks 30th in the U.S. for highest percentage of teens giving birth each year.

Katie Mehne, executive director for the We Care Pregnancy Clinic, 403 N. Fifth St., said the typical client she sees is about 20 years old, and the teen birth rates in the DeKalb area are very low. Mehne said the free service medical clinic provides a wide array of options for both females and males seeking help about pregnancy from the decision process up until birth.

“We offer a place where a girl and partner can talk to someone to sort on any issues with pregnancy,” Mehne said. “We offer ongoing support through pregnancy and parenting, which is available to everyone, not just teens.”

Mehne said the use of contraceptives by teens has increased and the number of sexually transmitted diseases have increased as well. According to Students Against Destructive Behavior, there are 19 million new STD infections each year in the U.S., about half of which are among people ages 15 to 24 years old.

“I think when people use contraceptives they think they’re immune,” she said. “But sometimes condoms don’t protect against everything, and I don’t think they get that message.”