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Surprising Science

Why Have Teen Pregnancy Rates Decreased?

Teen pregnancy has gone down 40 percent since 1990. Researchers believe free access to IUDs will help to lower the percentage even more.

Article written by guest writer Rin Mitchell

What’s the Latest Development?

According to reports, teen pregnancy has “reached a three-decade low, down 40 percent since 1990.” The significant drop has been accredited to better sex education programs, teenage girls opting to hold off having sex and the use of the birth control pill. However, researchers believe the number could come down even more with the use of IUDs. Based on a study conducted by researchers at Washington University, teenage girls who use IUDs have a lower risk of conceiving than teenagers who use birth control pills or any other contraception. “The pill is the most popular method, used by more than half of all women trying to avoid pregnancy. People believe it is highly reliable because it is over 99 percent effective when ‘used correctly’ in supervised drug trials.” Yet, “the risk of contraceptive failure was 22 times higher with the pill than with IUDs in adult women, and double that for teens.” When IUDs were available for free, it was the more popular choice, and now only a very small percentage of teens and women use IUDs. Despite this progress, “half of all American pregnancies, regardless of a woman’s age, are unplanned, leading to more than a million abortions annually.” Washington University lead researcher Jeff Peipert believes the abortion rate could be cut in half if IUDs were available for free.

What’s the Big Idea?

Researchers believe the use of IUDs among teenage girls could aid in a further decrease in teen pregnancy rates. Studies prove IUDs are more effective than the pill. If IUDs were available for free, more teens would use the form of contraceptive—lowering the number of teen pregnancy even more. “For decades, battles over reproductive health in teens have focused on sex ed in schools. But the decline in teen pregnancy since 1990 shows that the big changes occur only when we also treat reproductive health just like every other kind of medical science—by discarding problematic treatments and aggressively promoting effective ones.” Researchers also believe that making IUDs available again for free could potentially cut the abortion rate by half.  


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