Teen Pregnancy and STDs
Impact of Teen Pregnancy
Even though the numbers of US teen births fell over the last decade, US teen pregnancy and birth, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and abortion rates remain substantially higher than those of other western industrialized countries. According the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) in 2009, a total of 409,840 infants were born to 15-19 year olds, for a live birth rate of 39.1 per 1,000 women in this age group.
The impact of teen pregnancy and childbearing upon the social and economical fabric of the country is staggering and the immediate and long-term effects are something to be concerned about. The US, considered world-wide to be the leading Western developed country, leads the pack in high school dropout rates, teen pregnancies and is right up there in terms of sexual risk behaviors. Many young people participate in high risk sexual behaviors that can, and too often do, result in unintended health outcomes - pregnancies and disease.
Ignorant of the Facts
Curious about sex but ignorant of the facts, many teens remain lulled into oblivion by movies, television and magazines that portray sex as fun, exciting and very okay for anyone to engage in. What they don't tell a teen is that more than 8,300 young people between the ages of 13 and 24 reported having HIV infection in 2009. They don't give any information about the fact that being sexually active for one year without using birth control means a girl has a 90 percent chance of becoming pregnant - and many do the first time they have sex. The fact is, for most young women, becoming pregnant is not what they had in mind. 85 percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned.
Along with the shocking numbers of HIV incidents, many teens in the US fail to understand that the average is one in four sexually experienced teens that contract an STD every year. The consequences of contracting an STD can be devastating. Many of them remain in the body for the entire lifetime and cause infertility, cancer, and in some cases, death. Although the best way to ensure freedom from disease and pregnancy is abstinence, the reality is that many teens do not see that as an option. At the same time, they fail to protect themselves, their partners and any children that may be conceived by not using some form of protection. The latex condom has been shown to be about the best, but even the most effective means of protection against pregnancy doesn't protect against an STD. Even with the condom they happen.
The National Organization of Women did a study several years ago highlighting the fact that teen pregnancies and STDs could be decreased with changes to policy in the US. Although there have been some changes and a slow decrease over the years since the study was done, the fact remains that the rates of teen pregnancies and incidences of STDs are still higher in the US than other countries.
Education is paramount to changing attitudes. US teens are least likely to use any form of protection, especially when it comes to hormonal contraception (birth control pills). Their fears of using birth control are often unrealistic and not based on facts. Many young women fear the pill will be too strong for their systems and they'll need to take a rest from it, when in fact the pills today are quite safe. They believe the pill can cause cancer, will make them gain weight, cause sterility or birth defects. That thinking is usually based on old information or incorrect information. Today, many birth control pills are used to help young women deal with a variety of issues such as irregular periods, heavy cramping, and hormonal disorders.
Sending the Right Message
The message teens receiving concerning sexual behavior should be such that it promotes healthy behaviors. In countries outside the US, where teen births and STDs are much lower, there is more of an acceptance of teenage sexual relationships with clear expectations about responsible behavior. Along with the acceptance comes the strong and clear social expectation that sexual relationships should be committed and monogamous and that teenage partners should use contraceptives to avoid pregnancy and to prevent STDs.
STDs have far-reaching ramifications, especially for women TTC or already pregnant. Discover more about this topic here.