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Teens and sex: 40% have had it, 25% would welcome a baby

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At EmpowHer, we get more and more questions from teens – mostly female, but some male as well – about the actual mechanics of getting pregnant. They are worried that they are pregnant even though they had on five layers of clothing while having “dry sex.” Or they don’t know what could be wrong even though their period is two months late. Or they don’t know the names of male and female body parts, and answering their questions first becomes an exercise in translation. It’s clear that whatever sex education exists for these teens – whether abstinence-only or comprehensive – it’s not doing the job.

So it’s a little extra frightening to read the results of a new government survey released Wednesday by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. The report says that at least 40 percent of unmarried U.S. teens have had sex at least once, and 20 to 25 percent of them say they would be happy if a baby was the result.

"This is really quite alarming," Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned PregnancyAlbert, told HealthDay News. "I don't think it takes a Ph.D. to understand that in this day and age and in this economy the route to success doesn't begin with a family at age 16."

From the story:

“The study, which analyzed data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth, also found that about one-quarter of female teens and 29 percent of males reported two or more sexual partners, the same as 2002. Females who started having sex when they were younger were more likely to accumulate more partners.

“The majority of teens had used some form of contraception during their first intercourse: 79 percent of females and 87 percent of males. And condom use is on the rise. As in 2002, it ranked as the most common form of birth control and was used at least once by 95 percent of teens.

“The next favored form of birth control was withdrawal (58 percent), then the pill (55 percent).

“Seventeen percent of teens said they had used the rhythm method, as compared to 11 percent in 2002.”

Using the rhythm method can be alarmingly imprecise, as it rests on the woman’s ability to know when she’s ovulating, and that can be a moving target even in those who are accustomed to tracking their periods and tuning in to their body’s ovulation signals. And because sperm can live in the body for maybe 3 days after intercourse and an egg is viable for 24-36 hours, it’s necessary to avoid sex for a period of somewhere between a week and 10 days. If you misjudge, pregnancy can occur.

And even those possible pregnancies may not be the deterrent to young people that they used to be. The study said that 14 percent of females and 18 percent of males would be “a little pleased” or “very pleased” if they or their partner got pregnant. This worries experts in the field.

"One of the great success stories of the past two decades has been the extraordinary declines in teen pregnancy and childbearing," said Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "This progress has recently stalled out."

From USA Today:

"I think we need to better understand if this is a change in attitude toward pregnancy or a change in attitude toward abortion," says Laura Lindberg, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute.

Given the publicity about unmarried celebrities having babies and the growing number of single mothers overall, Lindberg says, it's not surprising that teens are more accepting of the notion.

"Teens don't live in a vacuum," she says. "What they see adults doing around them is going to reflect in their own behaviors and attitudes."

The report shows why the 15-year decline in the teen pregnancy rate began to flatten out in 2005, says Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

"It seems to me we have failed as a nation to convince teens that it is in their best interest for them to postpone families," Brown says.

The HealthDay News story:

The USA Today story:

The National Survey of Family Growth home page:

A link to a pdf of the survey results:

Add a Comment5 Comments

I don't think sex education was ever intended to encourage teens to have sex. Teens get plenty of messages from TV, music videos, magazine ads, movies, and scanty clothing that encourage sex at an early age. Despite what parents teach their teens, some still have sex. Is there a lack of information about the potentially devastating results of teen sex and teen pregnancy? Are some teens not absorbing information about abstinence? Do they ignore their parents and think that unplanned pregnancy or STDs won't happen to them?

August 10, 2010 - 7:52am

You know this topic angers me so much. In a way the parents rights are taken away about this topic. The parents have to accept the fact that their child is learning about sex with no questions asked. I really believe the parents should be able to choose whether or not their child learns about sex. In my oppinion young teenagers are too young to learn about sex, and they should'nt be taught. In my last submission I said the same thing as I am saying now. If their were shaperones look how many teenagers woul'nt have an unwanted pregnancy. And you know it is only because the teen boy wants to and pushes the girl into being willing but deep down the teen girl does not want to and so the teen boy forces her to and then she's pregnant. And then the poor girl if she has no suplport from her plarents the teen girl is made to abort. All because the teen girl is forced into having sex in the first place. And then the teen girl has no counciling and she is treated like some robot who can handle everything. Oh and then alot of people make up lots of stories about the teen girl that she has become a prostitute selling her body on the street just because she meets up with an old school friend at a night club. And because she is dressed a certain way the old so called friend assumes the worst about her. Then the story sticks with others whom she knew and say that she lives in a city block appartment living in luxury with her exclusive life as a call gril of some kind and does it to men with loads of money. Yeah and the rumours get so bad that the parents begin to believe the rumours and disbelieve the teen girl who is innocent. SO HATEFUL. Yeah just keep picking and choosing!

August 9, 2010 - 8:59pm

This would be all avoided if the word was not out and what I mean by that is the education department who wanted teenagers to learn about sex and now the teens are exploring what they have been taught. I do not believe that teenagers have a choice whether or not they want to learn in a school environment or not. You see I believe it should be up to the parents and yes it should be the parents who speak to the teenager whether boy or girl, there are educatioanl DVD's out in the stores that teach young teenagers where they come from and the rating of this DVD is E rated, the E standing for EDUCATIONAL this DVD is so good that it would do a better job than a teacher any day. And for a teen to even think about having a baby, the ideas are there because of sex eduation you can get off my subject and tell me about teens poor parenting skills all this can be avoided if the system was different then they wouldn't have to deal with a baby 24/7. What happened to the shaperone? if this was brought into every teens life and into their home look how many young teenage girls would be saved from this epidemic of teens having babies where is the fairness in this? and again the teen has no choice in this delicate and difficult matter all because the education department sais so and they rejoice in the idea that teenagers get pregnant oh," what a field day DHS has" hey! yeah bring it on! "teen pregnancies" is'nt that the way they work.? If I was working for the Government the first thing that I would do is ban sex education teenagers should be given choices and to be heard not ignored and if they feel uncomfortable they should'nt have to learn it you know sex education is discusting and teens look at it like a porno film.

August 8, 2010 - 2:37am

Teens, who are facing an unplanned pregnancy, may truly want to parent because they love their babies, but often lack the skills, patience and resources needed to nurture them. The reality of caring for an infant 24/7 is different than teens may imagine. In many cases, the children of teen parents would have better lives and greater opportunities with adoptive parents, who are mature, stable, and ready to parent.

August 5, 2010 - 8:21am

I believe that the teens are encourage to have sex. Instead of being curious they do it. when my son was 15 he had his first encounter with sex and he was so proud of it. In his honesty he came to me and blurted out that he has had sex. I looked at his face and at his neck and there were lovebites around his neck. I said to my son; how could you let this happen? You have spoilt your special day when the time comes for you to get married when you spend your first night as husband and wife. I got angry at the action that took place and I wasn't happy about it at all.

I believe it should be up to the parents to speak about sex to their children and not the schools. The way they teach it gets them involved in sexual activity, and it is not right. Sex should be exempt from all schools along with drug education for the same reasons. These things back in the 70's were not taught in school they were never spoken of. only heard about. These two topics are very delicate and at the end of it all can ruen lives of these young teenagers. It looks to me that lives will be ruened regardless whether we like it or not.

June 26, 2010 - 10:08pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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