Teen pregnancy rates have continued to decline through the years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the birth rate of mothers ages 15-19 was 18.8 per 1,000 women. This was a record low and a drop of 7 percent from 2016. Birth rates also fell among ages 15-17 as well as 18-19.
However, although the rates have been on a decline, they are still higher in the United States than in other industrialized nations. And they are higher in West Virginia than the national average.
National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month is important because these teens and their children can suffer financially and educationally. According to the CDC, only around 50 percent of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by the age of 22. Teen mothers also tend to have more health problems, face being incarcerated and can face unemployment as an adult.
Not only does pregnancy prevention help keep teens from becoming pregnant, it can also prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STD rates continue to increase every year. In 2017, chlamydia increased by 22 percent, gonorrhea rose 67 percent, and syphilis increased by 76 percent. Using condoms and being abstinent are the only ways to prevent an STD.
Abstinence is the choice not to have sex. This is the only way to completely prevent pregnancy and STDs. A condom is another way to prevent STDs and pregnancy, although they are not always completely effective. If you choose to have sex, using a condom and a form of hormonal birth control or IUD is the best way to stay protected.
As a parent or guardian of a teenager, it is important for you to help your teens learn about their sexual health. According to the CDC, research shows that teens who talk with their parents about sexual health topics have more positive outcomes. They have sex at a later age, use condoms and birth control more often if they do have sex, have better communication with their romantic partners and have sex less often.
If you visit the CDC’s website, there are even links that provide you with tips to help you talk with your teen about sex, birth control, relationships, pregnancy and other related topics.
If you are a teen who is having sex or thinking about having sex, make sure you are informed. Remember, knowledge equals power and you can increase your knowledge with different resources. You can talk with your parents and health care providers. These people are there to help you figure all of this out.
When it comes to your sexual health, you are not alone. According to the CDC, many clinics provide free or low-cost counseling and other reproductive health services. By law, Title X family planning clinics, such as MCHD Clinical Services at Monongalia County Health Department, must offer private and confidential services for teens.
Also, if you turn to the internet with your questions, make sure you are using reliable websites like the CDC. This site has several links that provide great information and tips on different sexual health topics.
For free and low-cost birth control or pregnancy testing, call MCHD Clinical Services at (304) 598-5119.