How To Prevent Teenage Pregnancy, New Study

teenage pregnancy
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It is possible to help prevent teenage pregnancy, according to a new study, and improve some other important factors in the lives of young teenage girls at the same time. The report appeared Online First by JAMA Pediatrics.

Teenage pregnancy is high in the US

In 2011, the pregnancy rate among teenagers hit a record low for females aged 15 to 19, coming in at 329,797 infants born, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This number represents a decline of 8 percent from 2010.

Despite this so-called good news, the United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and childbirth among industrialized nations. Teen pregnancy is also associated with a broad range of other consequences that have a life-long impact.

For example, the CDC notes that teenage pregnancy and childbirth cost taxpayers nearly $11 billion per year in healthcare and foster care costs, higher rates of incarceration among children of teen parents, and loss of tax revenue associated with poorer education among teenage mothers, who often drop out of school. Offspring of teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of school, experience health problems, become teenager parents themselves, and be unemployed.

Intervention can prevent teenage pregnancy
A youth development intervention program called Prime Time has been shown to help prevent teenage girls from getting pregnant as well as improve coming-of-age factors. The program was designed for primary care medical centers, where teen girls are teamed up with professionals to help them change their attitudes about sexual behaviors and other actions in their lives.

At the University of Minnesota, Renee E. Sieving, RN, PhD, FSAHM and her team evaluated the responses from a questionnaire concerning sexual risk behaviors and other factors among 236 sexually active teen girls (ages 13 to 17). In the study, 127 females were in the control group (no intervention) and 126 participated in the intervention program.

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The researchers analyzed the data and found that at the two-year follow-up (six months after the Prime Time intervention was completed), girls in the intervention group reported the following as compared with the control group:

  • “Significantly more consistent” use of the pill, condoms, and both the pill and condoms
  • A reduction in the perceived importance of having sexual relations
  • Having more self-confidence to refuse unwanted sexual advances
  • Improvement in their feelings of connectedness with their families

More about Prime Time
In 2007, Sieving received a $3 million federal grant to address why the teenager pregnancy rate in the United States is so high. The result was the Prime Time intervention program, which addresses factors that contribute to teen pregnancy, such as poor education, violence, lack of positive role models, and risky sexual behavior.

The project enrolls girls in programs for health promotion and youth leadership for 22 weeks, which involves one-on-one meetings with a case manager, community service projects, and other interventions. The girls are then paid to share what they have learned with their peers who have not participated in the program.

Previous evaluations of the impact of Prime Time intervention have indicated that the program results in a decline in risky sexual behaviors, aggression, and violence. Sieving noted in a 2007 article that “The Prime Tie intervention addresses all these factors—intensively and over a long enough period of time to have a lasting effect.”

Results of this newest survey seem to support previous findings. One way to prevent teenage pregnancy appears to be programs like Prime Time, which addresses factors that contribute to poor personal choices resulting in teenage motherhood.

SOURCES:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Sieving RE et al. Sexual health outcomes at 24 months for a clinic-linked intervention to prevent pregnancy risk behaviors. JAMA Pediatrics 2013: 1-8. Doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.1089
University of Minnesota News: Reducing teen pregnancy

Image: Morguefile

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