Preventing Teenage Pregnancy

Fortunately, rates of teenage pregnancy have dramatically declined due to the increase in condom use and sex education. However, since no form of contraception is foolproof, the only way to 100% prevent pregnancy is abstinence (i.e., not having sexual intercourse).

Why Prevention is Important

Statistics show that teenage mothers are at greater risk for:

•- medical complications such as anemia, toxemia, preeclampsia (also known as pregnancy-induced hypertension), and premature delivery

•- inadequate prenatal care

•- unhealthy nutritional habits

•- smoking and drug/alcohol abuse

•- not completing their education

•- poverty

•- having more children overall

Infants and children of teenage parents are at greater risk for:

•- low birth weight

•- inadequate growth

•- developmental delays

•- chemical dependence

•- death within the first year of life

•- becoming teenage parents

•- getting into trouble with the law

Prevention Programs

Teenage pregnancy prevention programs include the following:

•- Abstinence Education programs (teaching the benefits of abstinence until marriage; how to have sex/use contraception safely and responsibly)

•- Knowledge-Based programs (teaching how the body and reproductive systems work; information about contraceptives; education about sexually transmitted diseases and how to prevent them)

•- Clinical- and School-based programs (information imparted by health care professionals and providers of contraceptive services)

•- Peer Counseling programs: Where older/respected teens encourage their peers to resist social and peer pressures to have sex; help teens already in a relationship to navigate that relationship through communication and other skills; help teens personalize their risks; provide information and means to access and correctly use contraceptives

Parents and Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy

Parents (as well as schools, communities, and the media) can play a significant role in preventing adolescent pregnancy and influencing their children's sexual activity. One key area is for parents to remain interested in their teenager's life, keep the lines of communication open, and demonstrate unconditional love.

For much more on how parents can help, they can turn to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which seeks to improve the lives and future prospects of children and families, with a specific goal of reducing unplanned pregnancy among young adults by providing education to teens, parents, and young adults regarding sex and pregnancy. They also work with policymakers and the media to stress the scope of teen and unplanned pregnancies, to improve family and child well being, to disseminate educational and public service announcements, results of recent research, and more. Besides working with young adults and their families directly, as well as hosting the Youth Online Network, the National Campaign also supports others trying to prevent teenage pregnancy via regular communications, visits, ongoing technical assistance and advice, conference calls, conference presentations, and access to the most up-to-date information.

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