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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

UNITED STATES: Why Didn't Teen Moms Use Birth Control?


Wall Street Journal (01.19.12) - Friday, January 20, 2012

A CDC survey found that among teen moms ages 15-19 who got pregnant unintentionally, 50.1 percent had not been using any form of birth control. Conducted by mail and telephone, the survey polled 9,844 teen moms in 19 states during 2004-08. Data on contraceptive methods came from five of the states.

Of teen moms who had not used any method of birth control, 31.4 percent said they did not think they could get pregnant at the time. Nearly a quarter (23.6 percent) said their partner did not want to use birth control. In addition, 22.2 percent said that while the pregnancy was unintentional, they had not minded getting pregnant. Some struggled with birth control, with 13.1 percent reporting trouble getting it and 9.4 percent reporting contraception-related side effects. Eight percent thought they or a partner was sterile.

Nonetheless, 21 percent of the teen moms surveyed reported using a highly effective contraceptive method, such as sterilization, IUD, birth control pill, and hormonal injection, patch or ring. Use of condoms, considered moderately effective contraception, was reported by 24.2 percent. And 5.1 percent used the least effective methods, such as rhythm and withdrawal, diaphragm, sponge, and cervical cap.

The survey did not analyze the details of birth control use, so it is hard to know why these teens still got pregnant. It is possible that birth control was self-reported by teens but misused, inconsistently used, or not used.

Contraceptive use among sexually active teens could be improved by "providing appropriate access to contraception" and "encouraging consistent use of more effective contraceptives," said the editorial note in the report. Moreover, "health care providers, parents, and educators could encourage delaying the onset of sexual activity and abstinence, provide factual information about the conditions under which pregnancy can occur, increase teens' motivation to avoid pregnancy, and strengthen their negotiation skills for pregnancy prevention," the note said.

The report, "Prepregnancy Contraceptive Use Among Teens with Unintended Pregnancies Resulting in Live Births - Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), 2004-200,8" was published in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2012;61(2):25-29).


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Information in this article was accurate in January 20, 2012. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.