Since the early 1990s, teen pregnancy and birth rates have been falling. Still, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world.
We can argue about the exact reasons behind these high rates, but we can probably all agree that children and teens are exposed to images and stories about sex in the media every day. And often when young people seek information about sex from their friends or on the internet, the material isn’t always accurate.
Research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy showed that comprehensive sex education programs, which include both contraception and abstinence discussions, can be effective in helping teens delay sexual activity, use contraceptives when they do become sexually active, and to have fewer partners. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a three-year, CDC-funded study of junior and senior high school students, mirrored those findings. It revealed there is a significant decline in sexual activities among teens and they have fewer sex partners as compared to when they have little to no contraception education.
Dr. Carol Cassell, an author and researcher, ran the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. She said teens do not typically have sex to make babies but without contraception education that is what can happen.
“Almost all of teen pregnancy, 80 percent of it, is unwanted and unplanned. We have to deliver comprehensive sex education in a new and better way that connects with young men and young women. We need to get across to them that unwanted pregnancy leads to difficulty in life. Just telling them that they should wait to have sex until they are married doesn't equip them for real life. It's better to talk to them about decisions and emotions and consequences.”
Comprehensive contraception education is a good way to “talk” to young people. It plays a major role in decreasing teenage pregnancy rates. It is also a good source for sexually transmitted disease prevention. Sex education involves giving information in understanding the reproductive system, various contraceptive methods and natural birth control.
The reasons some young people don’t use contraception include: lack of knowledge, fear their parents will find out, belief that using contraception implies promiscuity, and belief that planning for sex ruins the spontaneity. Alcohol and other drug use also prevent good decision making and contraception use.
Providing young people with comprehensive contraception education can be part of a plan to help them be both safe and responsible when it comes to sexual relationships.
TampaBay.com/St. Petersburg Times
Health Behavior News Service
Arizona Family Planning Council