Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention
Adolescent pregnancy prevention is a national priority. Although there has been a decline in adolescent pregnancy and birth rates in the United States, the national adolescent pregnancy rate continues to be higher than the rates in other nations. There are racial and ethnic inequalities present, with higher rates of pregnancy for Hispanic and non-Hispanic black adolescents than non-Hispanic white adolescents (“Pregnancy Prevention,” 2012). Adolescent pregnancy prevention is a major public health issue because it directly affects the immediate and long-term well being of mother, father, and child. Adolescent pregnancy and childbirth contribute significantly to dropout rates among high school females, increased health and foster care costs, and a wide range of developmental problems for children born to teen mothers (“Pregnancy Prevention,” 2012).
Addressing adolescent pregnancy prevention requires broad efforts that involve families, service providers, schools, faith and community-based organizations, policymakers, and youth. Each of these groups falls into one of the five environmental systems of Bronfenbrenner’s ecologist theory, and if one is lacking, adolescent pregnancy can be at a higher risk. The application of evidence-based prevention methods requires an understanding of the problem; including knowledge of target populations, trends in the rates of adolescent pregnancy and birth, and the risk factors associated with adolescent pregnancy. Currently there is a significant number of initiatives being implemented through the support of the federal government and other organizations to better address the issue of adolescent pregnancy. Although there are many possible strategies that can be used for prevention, sex education within schools, open communication between adolescents and parents, and the use of effective contraceptive methods are a few of the most important.
Sex education within schools is one of the most important steps to preventing adolescent pregnancy. Without sex education, the youth will learn about body image, sexual attitudes, and healthy relationship messages through the media as well as commercialization (Kelley, 2012). Mass media is a component of the exosytem. This can be especially problematic for girls, since the media objectifies girls as eye candy. Boys often treat the women as sexual objects that they have no emotional connection to. When sex education is not provided, whether at home or in schools, media images are given the power to shape adolescents’ sexual understandings. Adolescent girls often lack knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, and other sex-related topics. They turn to older sisters, friends, books, or movies to fill in the blanks. This means that the chance of misinformation is significant, and teens face great risks from experimenting. Because it is not guaranteed that all caregivers are having the “sex talk” with their adolescent, is it crucial for schools to do so.
In order for our children to make informed decisions, we must provide them with honest and informative answers to their questions. Parents can only provide as much information to their children as they have themselves or as much as they are comfortable giving. If teens are not provided with sufficient information, they will seek to get answers from somewhere else. Teens also use websites and magazines as additional sources of information, which often contains false information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Guide to Community Preventive Services examined 66 comprehensive risk-reduction sexual health programs (Santelli, Lindberg, Grilo, & Kantor, 2019). Comprehensive risk-reduction programs had favorable effects on current sexual activity, frequency of sexual activity, condom use, protective behaviors overall, number of sexual partners, frequency of unprotected sexual activity, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy. A recent global review of curriculum based sex education commissioned by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of 77 high-quality studies delivered in schools concluded that sex education “remains a crucial and cost-effective strategy” (Sharp et al., 2019). These findings support considerable previous research showing that providing sex education to adolescents can effectively address the sexual behaviors that lead to adolescent pregnancy. For these reasons, it is crucial for schools to continue to effectively teach sex education to their students.
Family is an important component of the microsystem, and positive communication between adolescents and their parents or caregivers has many benefits. Strong parent-child communication promotes adolescents’ self-esteem and prevents risky behaviors, including substance use, delinquency, and sexual risk taking (“Parent-Child Communication,” 2016). By providing accurate information and creating open lines of communication, parents increase their children’s implementation of safer behaviors, such as delaying sexual initiation and increasing the use of contraceptives. Out-of-home youth, such as youth in foster care, also need help to establish connections with caring trusted adults who can provide guidance during adolescence. Caregiver-child communication is especially important for out-of-home youth. They are particularly vulnerable and at higher risk of having poor adult outcomes, like unemployment and high school incompletion.
Because many parents and caregivers are the primary sexuality educators for their children, boosting their confidence and equipping them with the appropriate resources to discuss sexuality can help in those important conversations. It is important for adolescents to feel encouraged to talk to their parents about sensitive issues such as pregnancy prevention. 87% of adolescents say that it would be easier for them to postpone sexual activity and avoid pregnancy if they were able to have more open lines of communication with their parents in regards to these topics (“Parent-Child Communication,” 2016). Adolescents say that their parents or their own morals, values, and religious beliefs are greater influences than their friends, popular culture, teachers, and sex educators in regards to their decisions about sex. The positive effects of parent-child communication on sexual behaviors have been found among multiple racial/ethnic groups and low-income populations. However, the effects are greater when adolescents and parents feel connected to one another and when parents can discuss sexuality in a comfortable manner. When parents clearly express their values and beliefs, adolescents are more likely to avoid risky sexual behaviors, even when they communicate strong disapproval.
A research study concentrated on the association between “exposure to MTV’s 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom and female students’ pregnancy-risk behavior” (Wright, Randall, & Arroyo, 2013). By preforming this study, researchers found that there was not a relationship between mothers and the effects on their daughters’ sexual behaviors, but did find a correlation with fathers. Teenage girls who watched the MTV show often were shown to have an increased probability of engaging in sexual intercourse. With that being said, they also found frequent viewing was associated with a decreased probability of having engaged in recent intercourse for girls whose fathers often communicated about sex activity with them (Sharp et. al., 2013).
Sex education within schools and open caregiver-child communication are imperative steps that can lead to the most important adolescent pregnancy prevention method: contraceptives. There are several types of contraception. Different types are better for certain people and their wishes. The most appropriate method depends on several factors, such as an individual’s health, age, frequency of sexual activity, number of sexual partners, desire to have children in the future, and family history of certain diseases. There are five main types of contraception: long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), hormonal methods, barrier methods, emergency contraception, and sterilization (“What are the different types of contraception?,” 2017).
An example of LARC is an intrauterine device (IUD). An IUD is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted by a healthcare provider into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It can remain in place and function effectively for several years at a time. Next, there are hormonal methods of birth control. This method uses hormones to regulate or stop ovulation, resulting in pregnancy prevention. Hormones can be used in various ways pills, injections, skin patches, transdermal gels, vaginal rings, intrauterine systems, and implantable rods. Barrier methods are intended to stop sperm from entering the uterus. They are removable and are a good option for women who cannot use hormonal methods. Types of barrier methods that do not require a health care provider visit include the male condoms, female condoms, contraceptive sponges, and spermicides. Methods that require a health care provider visit include diaphragms and cervical caps. Dozens of studies have shown that the use of contraceptives reduces the risk of pregnancy, but different methods of contraception have different rates of effectiveness in preventing pregnancy.
In conclusion, adolescent pregnancy is an issue in today’s society. There has been a steady decline in the reoccurrence of adolescent pregnancy, but the outcome is still questionable. Being a teen mom can greatly affect a teen’s life and development into a productive citizen. Teenagers can place themselves at huge financial disadvantages with poor decision-making. On average, the cost of raising a child can place many families deeper in to financial hardship. Financial hardship has been known to lead to a possible life of criminal activity. Educational programs are important to assist adolescents with understanding the negative outcome of having a child. Also, parents are advised to maintain open communication about sex, birth control, and their own feelings about teen pregnancy with their teen. Lastly, the number one solution to preventing pregnancy is being abstinent or using contraceptives, which adolescents are more likely to use if they have sex education in school and open parent-child communication.