From 2007 to 2013, births to teens ages of 15 and 19 dropped by 36 percent; pregnancies fell by 25 percent from 2007 to 2011, according to federal data.
But that wasn’t because teens were shunning sex. The amount of sex being had by teenagers during that time period was largely unchanged, says the study, which was published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health. And it wasn’t because they were having more abortions. Abortion has been declining among all age groups, and particularly among teenagers.
Rather, the researchers from the Guttmacher Institute and Columbia University found that “improvement in contraceptive use” accounted for the entire reduced risk of pregnancy over the five-year period.
“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.
Also, the use of any contraceptive at all makes a big difference, said Lindberg. “If a teen uses no method they have an 85 percent chance of getting pregnant [within a year]. Using anything is way more effective than that 85 percent risk.”
The downturn in teen births actually dates back to the early 1990s, the authors say, with the rate dropping by 57 percent between 1991 and 2013. The increase in contraceptive use dates to the mid-1990s, with the use of any contraceptive at the most recent sexual encounter rising from 66 to 86 percent from 1995 to 2012.
Valerie Huber, who advocates for programs that urge teens to wait to have sex rather than provide information about …