WASHINGTON, DC—More teen females are protected by condoms at first sex than in the past. However, Hispanic teens reported the lowest levels of all racial/ethnic groups to use anycontraceptive method at first sex. Seventy-five percent of teen females ages 15-19 used some form of contraception at first sex in 2002. The use of condoms at first sex, either alone or in combination with a hormonal method, among female teens ages 15-19, increased from 60 percent in 1992 to 68 percent in 2002. While this is good news, the use of any contraception method by Hispanic teens at first sex (72 percent) is lower than for black teens (79 percent) and for white teens (82 percent).
Child Trends most recent research brief, Trends and Recent Estimates: Contraceptive Use Among U.S. Teens, examines these and other trends using data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics and supplemented with original analyses by Child Trends.
“One reason we are concerned by the lower numbers of contraceptive use at first sex by Hispanic teens is that research shows that contraception use during the first sexual relationship is associated with subsequent contraceptive use. And consistent contraceptive use is key to preventing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections,” stated Kerry Franzetta, lead author on this brief.
The good news in this brief is that the majority of sexually active teens used contraception at most recent sex. In 2002, 83 percent of sexually active teen females reported using contraception at most recent sex, compared with 71 percent of females in 1995. Among sexually active teen males, 91 percent used contraception at most recent sex in 2002, compared with 82 percent in 1995.
Additional findings indicate that most teens used contraception both at first sex and the last time they had sex. Among sexually active teens in 2002, males (78 percent) were more likely than females (65 percent) to report that they or their partner used some form of contraception both the first and the most recent time they had sex.
Child Trends’ study reports that contraceptive use at both first and most recent sex varies by race and ethnicity. The findings for Hispanic teen girls are still a concern. Among teen females, in 2002, Hispanics were less likely to use contraception at both first and last sex (36 percent) than non-Hispanic blacks (57 percent) or non-Hispanic whites (72 percent). Among teen males, Hispanics were less likely than whites (65 percent vs. 84 percent) to use contraception at both first and last sex. Hispanic teen males did report similar levels of use at both first and last sex as blacks (77 percent).
According to Franzetta, “For teens who have sex, we need to reinforce the message that using effective contraception every time a teenager has sex is critical to avoiding unwanted pregnancy and STI transmission. Every time teenagers have sex without using an effective contraceptive method, they put themselves at risk of an unintended pregnancy and/or of acquiring an STI.”
Findings also indicate that, in addition to the birth control pill, sexually experienced teen females, both married and unmarried, are using other highly effective hormonal methods of contraception. The proportion of female teens who had used an injectable method of contraception, such as Depo-Provera ™, more than doubled between 1995 and 2002, from 10 percent to 21 percent.
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