Featured Committee Opinion

Adolescent Pregnancy, Contraception, and Sexual Activity

In 2015, the birth rate among U.S. adolescents and young adults (aged 15–19 years) reached a historic low at 22.3 per 1,000 women. Despite positive trends, the United States continues to have the highest adolescent pregnancy rate among industrialized countries with data. Racial and ethnic disparities in adolescent pregnancy rates continue to exist, as do state-based differences in pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports access for adolescents to all contraceptive methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In the absence of contraindications, patient choice should be the principal factor in prescribing one method of contraception over another. Dual method use—the use of condoms in combination with more effective contraceptive methods to protect against sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy—is the ideal contraceptive practice for adolescents. Just as adolescents should have access to the full range of contraceptives, including long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, they should be able to decline and discontinue any method on their own, without barriers. A reproductive justice framework for contraceptive counseling and access is essential to providing equitable health care, accessing and having coverage for contraceptive methods, and resisting potential coercion by health care providers. Successful programs that resulted in measurable changes in adolescent contraceptive practices and sexual behavior have been described, but not implemented uniformly nor supported by policy improvements. More research is needed to determine which programs are most effective and which programs do not work. Continued efforts are integral to further advance positive trends.

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