Protection as Prevention: Contraception for Sexually Active Teens

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This report bears relatively good tidings about U.S. teen pregnancy: Teen sexual activity, pregnancy and birth rates have all declined since 1990. The percentage of high school students who are sexually active was 49 percent in 1997, down from 55 percent in 1988, and the percent of adolescents who used condoms the first time they engaged in intercourse increased to 65 percent in 1994 from 48 percent in 1980. However, teen pregnancy in the United States is still at least double the rate in other industrialized countries.

According to "Protection as Prevention's" statistical companion report, "Trends in Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Use Among Teens," which is based on surveys of male and female teens and adults, 30 to 38 percent of sexually active female teenagers are not consistent contraceptive users, and younger teens (15-17) tend to be less consistent in their contraceptive use than older teens (18-19). "Protection as Prevention" highlights the dangers of not using contraception and explores why usage remains low despite the risks.

The major factors that can make or break a contraceptive user, according to the report, are knowledge about the availability and methods of contraception, support from the partner in using the contraception, ability to afford the contraception, and motivation to avoid pregnancy. These components, the report argues, require greater general availability of contraception, advances in contraceptive technology and shifts in public policy, and a shift in the media toward providing a message about sexual responsibility.

The report is based on three surveys: The National Survey of Family Growth, which looks at the reproductive behavior of women ages 15-44; the National Survey of Adolescent Males, which represents never-married males ages 15-19; and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which looks at high school students in 1990, 1993, 1995 and 1997. 35 pages. $5. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 1776 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Ste. 200, Washington, DC 20036. (202) 261-5655. E-mail: campaign@teenpregnancy.org. www.teenpregnancy.org.