Efforts are currently under way to explore strategies to reduce teen childbearing and its associated challenges for parents, children, and society. Research suggests that implementing evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, expanding access to Medicaid family planning services and Title X clinics, and utilizing mass media campaigns to promote safer sex may reduce teen pregnancy and improve outcomes for youth who may be more likely to have a teen birth.1
Additionally, the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, aims to improve access to recommended healthcare services for the entire population, including adolescents. The law expands health insurance coverage for adolescents, and offers new support for preventive services, innovative models of care, and clinical training, all of which have implications for teen pregnancy in the United States.1,2
The sections below provide specific strategies and approaches to preventing unintended pregnancy for adolescents, parents, healthcare providers, and communities.
The only certain way to avoid unwanted pregnancies is to abstain from sexual intercourse. For adolescents who are sexually active, using effective contraceptives (such as condoms, birth control pills, the patch, the vaginal ring, the intrauterine device or IUD, and/or injectable birth control methods) every time they have sexual intercourse will reduce chances of unwanted pregnancy.3 In addition to using a contraceptive method that protects against pregnancy, using condoms correctly will reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for everyone.4 STIs are also called sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs.
Visit our Tips for Parents and Caregivers of Teens page to learn more about talking with your teen about pregnancy prevention. Healthfinder.gov also has helpful strategies and tips for parents and caregivers on how they can start and maintain conversations with teens about relationships and sexual decisions.
Healthcare providers should:
- Inform clients about the reproductive health services that you offer. The Title X Family Planning Clinic Locator helps users find clinics that offer a broad range of family planning and preventive health services.
- Screen and counsel adolescents for sexual risk behaviors, HIV and STIs, and dating violence. Learn more about the preventive services covered under the Affordable Care Act.
- Provide teen-friendly sexual and reproductive healthcare services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an infographic and additional information on providing teen-friendly reproductive health visits. This article provides concrete, evidence-based guidance on what teens want from their contraceptive counselors.
- Locate continuing education opportunities and find teaching tools/curricula, current clinical practice references, and other helpful resources from the National Network of STD and HIV Prevention Training Centers. Also check out the latest STI Treatment Guidelines from CDC.
Where we live, work, and play affects our health. Whether or not a neighborhood has safe sidewalks and playgrounds, effective schools, access to consistent and high-quality healthcare, as well as to jobs and opportunities, can all influence adolescents’ choices and hopes for the future and their present and future health. Communities can undertake programs that include broad-based strategies to reach many of the youth in the community (e.g., through communication strategies and media campaigns) and through programs targeting youth most in need of prevention and other program services (e.g., through implementation of evidence-based programs and improved links to services).
What communities can do:
- Implement an evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program in your area. Visit HHS’ searchable database to find a program that was shown to be effective in reducing teen pregnancy, STIs, and behavioral risks, and that fits the needs of your community.
- Find HHS-funded teen pregnancy prevention programs in your area. Check out OPA's and ACF's lists of grantees to find organizations working in your state and community.
- Consider creating a positive youth development behavioral intervention. Emphasize social and emotional competence, improved decision making and communication skills, self-determination, and positive bonding experiences with adult role models, with a goal of reducing sexual risks, as recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force.
- Encourage schools and organizations to use effective tools and resources and training materials. The right tools may help to reduce sexual risk behaviors among adolescents.
Learn more about how the teen birth rate in your county compares to that of other counties in your state and across the nation.
1 Sawhill, I. V., & Guyot, K. (2019). Preventing unplanned pregnancy: Lessons from the states. Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Preventing-Unplanned-Pregnancy-2.pdf back to top
2 English, A. (2010). The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010: How does it help adolescents and young adults? National Adolescent Health Information and Innovation Center. http://nahic.ucsf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/HCR_Issue_Brief_Aug2010_Final_Aug31.pdf back to top
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 13). Contraception. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/index.htm back to top
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Condoms and STDs: Fact sheet for public health personnel. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/docs/condoms_and_stds.pdf back to top