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Teen girls waiting longer to have sex, according to CDC report

May 04, 2012|By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that teenage girls are waiting longer to begin having sex. The plight of teen pregnancy was depicted in the 2007 movie "Juno."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that… (Doane Gregory / Fox Searchlight…)

Teenage girls in the United States are waiting longer to begin having sex — and using more dependable forms of birth control once they do become sexually active, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

New survey findings could shed light on why the birth rate among girls ages 15 to 19 in the U.S. has declined to record lows in recent years. In 2010, the teen birth rate was 34.3 births per thousand, with fewer babies born to teenage mothers than in any year since 1946, the CDC reported this April

The new data were published Thursday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and were compiled from National Survey of Family Growth surveys in 1995, 2002 and 2006-2010.  The survey sample included males and females ages 15 to 44 and included questions about sexual activity and contraceptive use.

From 2006 to 2010, the CDC researchers reported in their article, 57% of females 15 to 19 had never had sex, up from 49% in 1995.  When broken down among white, black and Latino girls, the proportion who remained virgins did not differ significantly among racial and ethnic groups.  There were differences in experience when the data were sliced by age group. Among teens 15 to 17, 73% had not had sex; among older teenage girls, only 36% had not.

The girls who reported during the 2006-2010 survey cycle that they had had sex in the interview month were 26% more likely to have used a “highly effective” method of birth control such as an IUD or the pill than sexually active teenagers in 1995 had been, the researchers wrote.  They were less likely to use “moderately effective” methods such as a condom alone. 

In all, 59% of sexually active teens reported that they used a highly effective method (including 12% who used a condom as well), 16.3% depended on moderately effective methods, 6.1% used less-effective methods (such as rhythm method or withdrawal) and 17.9% used no contraception at all.  White teens were more likely to use highly effective birth control than black and Latino teens.  Black and Latino teens were more likely than whites to use no birth control at all.

Despite the good news, the teen birth rate in the U.S. remains one of the highest among industrialized countries, the CDC has reported.

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