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Teen Contraception: A Thing of the Past?

I was recently talking to some of my son’s friends who are all graduating from High school and they were telling me that no one uses birth control anymore. The boys said condoms kill all the feelings and the girls believe that the rhythm method is effective and less toxic than the pill. I was shocked and had no idea that the safe sex talk has reverted to the plan B pill in their mind. Is this unusual or should the lack of sexual education we have offered our youth be ringing an alarm bell for us?

The lack of information that teens have received about their sexuality should be alarming for most adults. For much of the last decade, most sexual education in this country included limited anatomical lessons with an overriding emphasis on the contraception method of abstinence. In addition to a recent rise in teen pregnancy, many of the gains that had been previously made in safe sex education, including disease awareness and prevention have been slowly eroding.

The most recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed 2800 teens and found that while sexual practices had not changed much since the previous survey in 2002, what had most dramatically shifted was the teen attitude towards the acceptance and approval of pregnancy for single young women. This change in attitude happened for both male and female populations, with over a 15% increase in the last five years.

This change in attitude in part translates from the celebrated teen pregnancies of Bristol Palin and Jamie Spears, which have served to glamorize the idea of teens raising babies. The decreased anxiety about teen pregnancy among the younger population is only one contributing factor to the now increasing birth rate among teens.  Seventeen percent of young girls, up from 11% are now using the rhythm method as a form of birth control, a method which is only 25% effective.

Although 98 percent of teens said they’d used birth control at least once, with condoms being the most common choice, the new Plan B pill is increasingly being viewed as a viable alternative to preventive contraception. By using the oral contraception within 72 hours of unprotected sex, women can prevent the majority of pregnancies. The plan B pill is not being recommended as a primary form of contraception even though an increasing number of teenagers, do use it this way. This is due in part to the fact that the teenage years are not known  for their strength of planning ahead.

This new relaxed attitude about teen sexuality and pregnancy has impacted awareness and concern about other important sexual health issues. Both of these new chosen forms of contraception do not provide protection for any  sexually transmitted diseases. Combined with a hook-up culture that dominates sexuality for many teens, this is indeed a dangerous situation.

Education and openness are the most valuable tools we have at our disposal to help our youth steer their collective culture in a direction that is life giving and supports them in building real relationships that will help them grow their lives. Our teens deserve this from all of us.