Teen pregnancies are way down and it’s not because they’re having less sex

According to a new study, teen pregnancies have dropped dramatically, and it’s all due to increased use of contraceptives.

According to federal data, from 2007 to 2013, births to teens age 15 to 19 dropped by 36 percent and pregnancies fell by 25 percent from 2007 to 2011.

As the rates declined, the amount of sex teens were having remained largely unchanged. Additionally, as teen pregnancies fell, so did abortions. As the study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health points out, abortion has been declining among all age groups, and particularly among teenagers.

“By definition, if teens are having the same amount of sex but getting pregnant less often, it’s because of contraception,” Laura Lindberg, the study’s lead author told NPR.

No single contraceptive method stood out as singularly effective, said the researchers. Instead, they found that teens were using contraceptives more often, combining methods more often, and using more effective methods, such as the birth control pill, IUDs and implants.

“If a teen uses no method they have an 85 percent chance of getting pregnant [within a year],” Lindberg said. “Using anything is way more effective than that 85 percent risk.”

Unsurprisingly, “abstinence education” advocates are a bit miffed by the study’s findings.

“As public health experts and policymakers, we must normalize sexual delay more than we normalize teen sex, even with contraception,” Ascend president and CEO Valerie Huber said in a statement. “We believe youth deserve the best opportunity for a healthy future.”

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From NPR:

More recent policy changes could help drop the teen pregnancy rate even more. One is the Affordable Care Act requirement that boosted insurance coverage for contraception, starting in 2012. The other is the 2014 recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that sexually active teenagers be offered “long-acting reversible contraception” methods such as implants and intrauterine devices, which are highly effective and do not require any additional action, such as remembering to take a daily pill.

The study offers one of the biggest refutations yet to the Christian Right’s agenda of promoting abstinence over comprehensive sex ed.

Featured image: Angela Lopes (Flickr)

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