WebMD Medical News
Laura J. Martin, MD
Oct. 12, 2010 -- More teenagers are using a condom -- by itself or along with a partner's hormonal contraceptive -- according to a new teen sex survey from the CDC.
The survey shows sexual activity and contraceptive use among U.S. teenagers have remained relatively stable over the last decade. But condoms gained among teenage boys as the preferred method.
Also, the teen birth rate has resumed a gradual decline that was briefly interrupted in 2005-2007.
"The slight increase from 2005 to 2007 generated concern that progress over the past two decades in reducing teen pregnancies could have stalled," researcher Gladys Martinez, PhD, of the CDC's division of vital statistics, and colleagues write in their report. "However, data for 2008 and 2009 show that the teen birth rate again declined from the rate in 2007."
The study showed the teen birth rate for girls aged 15-19 was 39.1 births per 1,000 females in 2009. That's 37% lower than its peak of 61.8 per 1,000 in 1991. Researchers say that is a historic low for the U.S., but still higher than many other developed countries, including Canada.
The nationwide survey was based on face-to-face interviews with 4,662 teenagers between 2006 and 2010.
Overall, about 43% of never-married teenage girls and 42% of never-married teenage boys reported having sexual intercourse at least once. Researchers say those levels of sexual activity have not changed significantly since 2002.
Contraceptive use among teenagers has also changed little since 2002, with 78% of teenage girls and 85% of boys saying they used a method of birth control the first time they had sex.
The most popular contraceptive among teens remains the condom. But researchers found an increase among teen boys in the use of condoms alone and in combination with a partner's hormonal conceptive.
Eighty percent of teenage boys said they used a condom the first time they had sex. That's an increase of 9% since 2002. Sixteen percent said they used a condom in combination with a partner's hormonal method, a 6% increase.
The survey also shows the use of non-pill hormonal contraceptives -- such as injectables, the contraceptive patch and ring, and emergency contraception -- are also becoming more common among teenage girls.
For example, the percentage of teen girls who reported using non-pill types of hormonal contraceptives the first time they had sexual intercourse tripled, from 2% in 2002 to 6% in 2006-2010.
In addition, 14% of teenage girls reported ever using emergency contraception. Ten percent said they used the contraceptive patch and 5% had used the ring. Overall the rate of use of birth control pills and hormonal injectables did not change from 2002 to 2006-2010.
Although sexual activity rates among teenage girls didn't change much from 2002 to 2006-2010, researchers say there has been a gradual long-term decline in the percentage of teenage girls who are sexually experienced over the last 20 years.
The survey shows the percentage of teenage girls who said they were sexual active has dropped from 51% in 1988 to 43% in 2006-2010.
"This significant long-term decline is a reversal from a period during which the percentage of teenagers who were sexually experienced was steadily increasing," write the researchers.
Sexual activity rates also did not change significantly among teenage boys from 2002 through 2006-2010. Researchers say this is a departure from a past trend of declines.
Overall, 60% of teenage boys reported being sexually active in 1988; this dropped to 46% in 2002.
Researchers say the most common reason given for not having sex remained the same as it was in 2002, that it was "against religion or morals." Forty-one percent of girls and 31% of boys who had never had sex cited this reason.
For boys, the second most popular reason was "haven't found the right person yet." The number of teenage boys who cited this reason increased from 21% in 2002 to 29% in 2006-2010.
For girls, the second most common reason for not being sexual active was "haven't found the right person yet," at 19%. The third most common reason was "don't want to get pregnant," at 18%.
SOURCE:National Center for Health Statistics: "Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptives, and Childbearing, 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth."
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