Government researchers have found that the birth rate among teenagers reached a historic low in 2012 and that more effective means of birth control may have been a factor.
The National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the birth rate among young women ages 15 to 19 fell 6 percent last year, to 29.4 births per thousand. That’s the lowest rate in the 73 years that the government has been collecting the data.
The number is “a considerable one year drop,” said pediatrician and Columbia University professor Dr. John Santelli. The teen birth rate has been dropping since 1991 when it was fairly high at 61.8 births per thousand.
“Our data comes from the birth certificate that parents complete at the hospital and it provides a wealth of information,” said Brady E. Hamilton, a statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics. Hamilton was the lead author of the report.
The CDC conducted surveys of high schoolers to try and determine the reasons behind the declining birth rate. “There is not much evidence of a change in abortion use and not much change in sexual activity, said Santelli. “What we have seen is greater availability of much more effective birth control methods.”
Although condom use has actually declined slightly, the use of IUDs, small devices that are inserted and left inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy, is on the rise, NBC News reported.
“Young people sometimes use condoms incorrectly, and sometimes they forget to use condoms,” says Santelli. “There is almost zero user error with the IUD. Once it is in place, it works every time.”
The birth rate for women in their early twenties also declined in 2012. “People are starting families later and later, and these are historical changes and happening worldwide,” says Santelli. “The last downturn in the economy has accelerated the trend.”