The morning after pill is widely used among teens, particularly because it has been made legal for them to buy it over the counter.
This is only one of the patterns revealed by a recent study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their study is based on the results of a survey that was carried out between 2011 and 2013. Its target subjects were males and females aged 15 to 19.
Surprisingly, the study revealed that teens are actually having less sex these days and that, one way or another, they are getting better at preventing pregnancies. Their preferred methods include condoms, that remain the most used contraceptive among teens, the withdrawal method, which is less than a satisfactory method, birth control pills and the emergency morning after pill.
The fact that the use for the morning after pill has increased so significantly, from only 8% in 2002 to a whopping 22% in 2013, could be correlated with the fact that teens have become able to purchase it from drug stores, without a medical prescription. Initially, the age limit was set at 18, but this was eventually lifted.
While the situation is not ideal, because taking the morning after pill could have some significant side effects that might traumatize the endocrine system, it remains a better option than no emergency contraceptive at all.
However, National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy head program officer, Bill Albert, points out that this spike in emergency contraceptive use reveals that teens are clearly not good at contraceptives. “In the battle between sex and sex with contraception, sex often wins”, he says.
And while the morning after pill guarantees a 90% chance of preventing an unwanted pregnancy, unprotected sex could still lead to life threatening Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Using a condom therefore remains the best option available at this point.
The study has also revealed a decreasing trend in the teens sexual activity rates. With only 47% of male teens reporting that they have had sex at least once and 44% of women, there is a clear difference from the situation at the beginning of the millennium. This decrease levels were calculated at 22% for teenage boys and at 22% for teenage girls. At the moment male and female teens are almost equally likely to have sex.
Fortunately, the level of teenage pregnancy has also plummeted, reaching an all time low rate. “Teens are doing a whole hell of a lot right. (…)There has been progress in all 50 states, and across all racial and ethnic groups. That progress has been very wide and deep.” says Bill Albert.
The likeliest factors that are behind this massive progress are both the higher rates among those who choose to wait a bit more until they have sex, but also the fact that contraceptives are a lot more accessible to teens nowadays.
The aim of future projects meant to lower the rate of teenage pregnancy even further should be to eliminate the stigma associated with contraceptives and to teach teens the limitations of each contraceptive measure so that they know exactly what to expect when they put them into action.
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