Contraceptives help push teen pregnancies to an all-time low

Taylor Henderson was finishing her senior year of high school when she realized that she had more to worry about than the upcoming volleyball game: she was going to have a baby in four months, despite being on birth control.

“It was a lot to handle considering I was still a senior in high school trying to make sure I was going to graduate and be prepared for Asher all at the same time,” Henderson said.

Now 20, Henderson said her son Asher has brought her great joy the past two years, despite a stressful beginning.

“Now that I have him, my priorities have completely changed,” Henderson said. “Yes, I still see my friends and I see my family, but Asher is above all. He is and will always be my number one.”

Henderson’s situation has become increasingly less common due to a longterm trend of decreasing teen pregnancies, with more than a 50 percent drop in the national adolescent pregnancy rate since the 1990s, according to the Virginia Beach Planned Parenthood.

Now only a small number of teens who get pregnant each year — about 57 for every 1,000 female teenagers.

In Virginia, there were only 5,690 teen pregnancies in 2016, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

This large decrease in teen pregnancies is due to contraception.

“It wasn't because they were having more abortions,” said NPR reporter Julie Rovner. “Abortion has been declining among all age groups, and particularly among teenagers.”

Contraceptives are responsible for 86 percent of the drop in teen pregnancy, according to the National Survey of Family Growth.

"By definition, if teens are having the same amount of sex but getting pregnant less often, it's because of contraception," said Laura Lindberg, a sexual health researcher, in a 2016 interview with NPR.

Though contraceptives do not work 100 percent of the time, their use makes a big difference, Lindberg said.

"If a teen uses no method, they have an 85 percent chance of getting pregnant [within a year],” said Lindberg. “Using anything is way more effective than that 85 percent risk."

Family planning services that provide contraceptives help women prevent 2.2 million unintended pregnancies each year, according to research by Planned Parenthood.

Teen pregnancy can continue to decrease if teens have easier access to these contraceptives, researchers say.

“Teens' increased use of contraceptives indicates their increased commitment to protecting themselves from risk,” Heather Boonstra, a reproductive health researcher, told the Washington Examiner. “Policy discussions should focus on supporting teen contraceptive use generally, including ensuring access to a full range of contraceptive education, counseling and methods.”

Easy access to contraceptives can provide teens with a decreased chance of pregnancy and continue this trend.

“Be smart about things,” Henderson said. “But make sure you have your priorities right. Don’t let people’s opinion of you get to you because trust me, people are gonna talk. But just remember you’re getting the biggest blessing and miracle of your life, even if you didn’t 'beat' teen pregnancy.”