Sex Uneducated: Why Teens Think They Can't Get Pregnant
Misconceptions, lack of access and carelessness main factors for high teenage pregnancy rates
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report revealed stark details about the ill-advised minds of teens during a four-year span. Teenage females, between the ages of 15-19 years old who were surveyed from 2004-2008, revealed that misconceptions were among top factors that contributed to their unplanned pregnancy.
In the Jan. 20 study, researchers found that 50.1% of of white, black and Hispanic teen females did not use any contraception before their pregnancy, and nearly one-third, 31.4%, believed that could not get pregnant. In fact, some teens failed to have a transparent understanding of ovulation and menstrual cycles, while others thought that pregnancy could not occur the same time they lost their virginity.
In an age where condom drives are prevalent and sex education literature is often distributed, the startling report questions whether disseminated information for teenagers is being ignored or simply translated into a complicated fact a 15-year-old could not understand.
Nicholas Jeffrey, 26, an outreach and research coordinator for the University of Miami Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, tells Loop 21 that teens receive incorrect information about their bodies and sex from misinformed peers.
“A lack of education causes all myths to perpetuate,” he said. “I have heard of teens who practice bad methods that stem from rumors [such as] making the female go on top so that gravity will prevent the sperm from getting to the egg.”
Even in Utah, misconceptions still permeate the mindset of teenage females and their counterparts. Based on recent statistics from the CDC, parents in the "Beehive State" may need to--coincidentally--engage in more "birds and bees" talks with their kids. In this Western region, one-fourth of teen moms thought their partner was sterile, another common misconception, according to the CDC report. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, when compared to the national average, Utah teens stand out for three reasons:
They are more likely than other teen moms to say that:
1) They struggle to get birth control.
2) They thought they couldn’t get pregnant at the time.
3) They believed they or their partner was sterile.
“The data suggest some Utah teens don’t know the facts of life” based on two reasons, according to the newspaper. "...Public schools are limited in what they can say about sex, say opponents of Utah’s sex education law, or because the teens aren’t listening in class, say the law’s supporters.”
The blame of teen pregnancy rates is often narrowed down to two debatable styles an adolescent should learn about sex: abstinence-only, which excludes info about contraceptives, or comprehensive sex education, which focuses on a wide range of sexual issues, including condom use.
Educators in Utah are mandated to teach abstinence-only courses, without ‘the advocacy of homosexuality; the encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices; or the advocacy of sexual activity outside of marriage,’” according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).
But the CDC report suggests that teaching abstinence, along with promoting condom use would “increase a teen’s motivation to avoid pregnancy.”
"...rates of contraceptive use among sexually active teens might be improved by providing appropriate access to contraception, encouraging consistent use of more effective contraceptives, promoting condom use for protection against sexually transmitted infections including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and increasing teens' motivation to use contraception consistently."
“If we just stopped operating under they auspice that ‘they'll do it anyway’ we'd be able to push the message of abstinence more fervently. Whether its ‘pull and pray’ or condoms, they need to understand the only way to protect yourself fully is to not do it. Other than that, you’re susceptible,” ranted Akeem Anderson from Chicago, who responded to the Facebook question: “What is going on that girls in 2012 still don't understand the valuable use of protection?”
In the same thread, pharmacy student Lorneka Joseph from Nassau, Bahamas, said teachers should not play a solo role in teaching sex education to a teen.
“I believe that parents play a major role here because teachers can only teach so much in a classroom,” she said.
The CDC report also found that non-Hispanic black teens were significantly less likely to use highly effective methods of birth control when compared to non-Hispanic whites and Hispanic teens. However, 42% of Hispanic teens said they did not use contraception because they thought the could not get pregnant, taking the lead among non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks.
According to NationMaster.com, the United States takes the lead for most teen pregnancy rates with close to 500,000 births. Poland trails in second, with more than 30,000 births, and Germany third with 29,000 births.
Read the report here.