Contraception used half the time in unintentional teen pregnancies

January 26, 2012

Half of teen mothers who became pregnant unintentionally say that they did nothing to prevent the pregnancy, according to data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. The data show that misperceptions still abound regarding contraception and pregnancy, and it is never a bad idea to have frank talks with your patients-boys and girls alike.

Half of teen mothers who became pregnant unintentionally say that they did nothing to prevent the pregnancy, according to data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey.

This finding comes from the 2004-2008 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, which collected data from 19 states on maternal behaviors and attitudes surrounding the time of pregnancy. For this report, the CDC looked at prepregnancy contraceptive use among girls 15 to 19 years old with unintended pregnancies resulting in live birth.

Three-fourths (73.2%) of teen mothers who delivered a live infant reported that their pregnancy was unintended. Of these, 50.1% reported not using any method of contraception before becoming pregnant. The rates of nonuse of birth control were roughly the same among non-Hispanic white teens, non-Hispanic black teens, and Hispanic teens.

Only 1 in 5 used a highly effective contraceptive method (ie, sterilization, intrauterine device, injectable medroxyprogesterone); one-fourth used condoms, a moderately effective method; and 5.1% used the least effective methods (ie, rhythm and withdrawal).

About one-third of study responders who did not use contraception stated that they thought they could not get pregnant at the time, and 8% cited the belief that they or their partners were sterile.

About one-fourth said that their partner did not want to use contraception. More than 1 in 10 (13.1%) reported not having access to birth control, and another 9.4% indicated that they experienced adverse effects from contraception.

Statistics show that only about half of teen mothers even graduate from high school by age 22 compared with 90% of girls who had not given birth during adolescence, setting the stage for lower educational achievement for their children and higher incarceration and unemployment rates.

The CDC recommends enhanced education of patients by health care providers, including teaching them about the conditions under which pregnancy occurs and providing access to contraception and encouraging the use of more effective methods plus condoms to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. It also advises efforts to strengthen teens’ skills in negotiating contraceptive use with their partners. It has partnered with the President's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative to reduce the number of teen pregnancies by 2015.

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