A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that “improvements in contraceptive use” have accounted for a notable dip in teen birth and pregnancy rates over the past decade.
The study, which interviewed 3,000 women ages 15-19 in 2007, 2009 and 2012, found that “pregnancy risk declined among sexually active adolescent women with significant increases” in the use of contraceptive methods. The teenagers were not found to be having less sex, and U.S. abortion rates are at an all-time low.
“By definition, if teens are having the same amount of sex but getting pregnant less often, it’s because of contraception,” says Laura Lindberg, the study’s lead author and a Guttmacher researcher.
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.
“These high rates of contraception and low rates of pregnancy are historically unprecedented,” lead author Laura Lindberg, a research scientist with the Guttmacher Institute, told the New York Times.
Despite the baffling persistence of abstinence-only programs and stunningly inadequate levels of sex education, the study notes that this recent decline is part of a larger trend of responsible teen sex: “Between 1995 and 2012, any method use at last sex among adolescent women increased from 66% to 86%, while use of multiple methods increased from 11% to 37%,” the authors wrote.
“Taken together, evidence from this study and our previous studies indicates that the substantial long-term decline of 57% in adolescent birth rates from 1991 to 2013 can be primarily attributed to increases in overall contraceptive use.”
Well done, teens.