Use of emergency contraception by female teenagers has increased over the past decade while the percentage of both male and female teenagers who have had sexual intercourse has decline since 1988, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Using data from the 1988 to 2011–2013 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), the CDC report of teenagers aged 15–19 highlights key trends in sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing. The report includes information on 1,037 females and 1,088 male teenagers and an additional 960 females and 810 males aged 20–24 interviewed in the 2011–2013 NSFG.

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In 2011, 44% of female teenagers and 47% of male teenagers aged 15–19 had experienced sexual intercourse, a decline of 14% for females and 22% for males since 1988. A total of 79% of female teenagers and 84% of male teenagers used a contraceptive method at first sexual intercourse, with the condom remaining the most common contraceptive method used among teenagers. Use of emergency contraception by female teenagers who had sexual intercourse at least once significantly increased over the past decade, from 8% in 2002 to 22% in 2011–2013.  Young women who did not use a method of contraception at first sexual intercourse were twice as likely to become teen mothers as those who used a method; the birth rate for teenagers aged 15–19 dropped 57% from its peak in 1991.

Understanding these patterns and trends in sexual activity, contraceptive use, and their impact on teen pregnancy can provide insight into the recent decline in the U.S. teen birth rate, the authors concluded.

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