When I was younger, my sister got pregnant with her first son. Considering the fact that I was only seven years old and had no idea of the responsibility she was taking on, I was extremely excited for her. I had no idea that she was going to have to grow up so fast, the decisions that she would be faced with in those following months, or the health issues that she would have to face as well. Ashley had to choose whether or not she wanted to keep the child, have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption. That decision is hard for anyone, let alone a fifteen year old child. She had a few health problems during her pregnancy which included early labor, and an emergency caesarean section (C-section).
Nearly four out of every 10 young women get pregnant at least once before they turn 20. Each year the federal government spends about $40 billion to help these families that began with teenage birth. Teen pregnancy and birth rates are declining but they are still too high. The overall teenage pregnancy rate declined 19 percent in 1997 from its all-time high in 1991. In 1991, the teenage pregnancy rate was 117 per 1,000 women and in 1997, 94.3 per 1,000 women aged 15-19. The national teen birth rate declined 5 percent between 1998 and 2000, reaching a rate of 48.5 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19. Since 1991, teen birth rate has declined 22 percent.
The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, birth and abortion in the industrialized world. In fact, the U.S. teen pregnancy and birth rates are nearly double Canada’s, at least four times those of France and Germany, and more than eight times that of Japan. Even though these numbers state that the U.S. has high rates, less than one-half of high-school students have had sex. Teens are showing signs of being more conservative sexually. Close to six in ten teens (58 percent) said sexual activity for high-school-age teens is not acceptable, even if precautions are taken against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, the vast majority of teens (87 percent) said they do not think is it embarrassing for teens to admit they are virgins.
While teen sexual activity is down among most teens, it has risen among girls younger than age 15. In 1995, almost one-fifth (19 percent) of teen girls reported they had sex before age 15. And, the younger the teen girls are when they first have sex, the more likely they are to report the sex was unwanted or non-voluntary. The percentage of unmarried teen guys aged 17-19 that reported having sex dropped from 75.5 percent in 1988 to 68.2 percent in 1995. In a recent poll, 63 percent of teens who have had sexual intercourse wish they would have waited. More than one-half of teen boys (55 percent) and nearly three of four teen girls (72 percent) said they wish they had waited longer to have sex. Sixty-four percent of teens also said the advice they’d give a younger sibling or friend would be “Don’t have sex until you’re at least out of high-school, but, if you do, be sure to protect yourself against pregnancy and STD’s.”
Even if used correctly, all methods of birth control have a failure rate. The only way to make 100-percent sure that you won’t get pregnant or get someone pregnant is to not have sex. The next best thing is to use birth correctly every time you have sex. Many sexually-active teens don’t use protection at all or use it inconsistently or incorrectly. More teens are now using contraception the first time they have sex, but are less likely to use protection in the most recent time they’ve had sex. Moreover, thirty-one percent of girls were completely unprotected the last time they had sex, and one-third of sexually-active teens who do use contraception, use it inconsistently.
In a recent poll, teen boys (49.3 percent) and teen girls (54.2 percent) agree that pressure from their partners is one of the main reasons teens fail to use birth control. Alcohol and drugs can also play a role. Many young