The Birds & The Bees and STDs
May Sexual Health Awareness News – Teen Pregnancy & STD Prevention
In 2016, there were 209,809 babies born to females ages 15-19.
Even though these numbers are 9% lower than the year before in 2015, and 67% lower from 1991, these births still accounted for 5.3% of all births in 2016. According to a national survey, approximately 77% of teen pregnancies are unplanned.
Additionally, there are an estimated 20 million new STD infections in the United States. Nearly half of the 20 million new cases of STDs each year are made up of adolescents ages 15-24. And two in five sexually active teen girls have had an STD that can cause infertility and even death1.
This month STDAware will take a look at some of the main factors of unplanned teen pregnancy and STD infection rates in the U.S.
Research indicates that there are many factors that play a part in the high rate of teen pregnancies in the U.S.
- Lack of Formal Education about Sex: Proper and comprehensive Sex-Ed programs have been shown to help youth delay the onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity and lower the number of sexual partners, as well as increase the use of protection. However, not every school or community provides well-established sex education program and consequently many teens navigate the murky waters of their teen years without knowing the health risks associated with sex, or how to use protection properly.2
- Socioeconomic Factors: Adolescents with mothers who gave birth as teens, and whose highest level of education is a high school degree are more likely to have a baby before the age of 20, compared to teens whose mothers were older or attended some college. More significantly, those who lived with both biological parents have a lower risk of teen birth.3 Teens who are enrolled in school and engage in learning are less likely to become a parent before the age of 20. Additionally, those who live in wealthier neighborhoods, or an area where income and employment opportunities are prominent are less likely to become teenage parents.4
- Ethnicity: Teen births differ greatly depending race, ethnic background, and country region. Birth rates are the highest amongst Hispanic and black adolescents compared to other nationalities. Hispanic females ages 15-19 had a higher birth rate of 31.9 births per 1,000, black adolescent females had a birth rate of 29.3 births per 1,000, while white adolescent females had 14.3 births per 1,000. The overall rate of adolescent/teen pregnancy has significantly declined in recent years. Since 2007, the teen birth rate for Hispanics has lowered by 58%, for blacks 53% and 47% for whites.5
- History of Sexual Abuse: Pregnancy and the spread of STDs are just two of the life-altering results of sexual abuse. One research study showed that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are a victim of child sexual abuse. Additionally, those who have experienced sexual abuse as a child are more likely to suffer or attempt rape in their adolescent years, as well as develop low self-esteem and a distorted view of sex. Spreading awareness of sexual abuse and its consequences is one way to support our younger generations.6
Teen pregnancy results in more than having a baby
According to CDC, only 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by the age of 22 (compared to 90% of women who do not give birth during their teenage years). These factors have a cumulative effect as statistics show that the children born to teen parents are likely to be less prepared for school, drop out of high school, become a teen parent themselves, and are often under or unemployed as a young adult.
Teens and STDs
Lack of education and resources is a significant factor in teen pregnancies, but there is an additional health risk for unsafe sexual behavior in our young population. And that is the spread of STDs.
Facts About Teen STD rates in the United States:
- Young people ages 15-24 account for almost half of the 20 million new STDs infections, every year.
- Even though young people account for half of new STD cases, a recent survey showed that only 12% were tested for STDs in the last year.
- The CDC estimates that one in four women, under the age of 25, have an STD
- One out of two sexually active people will contract an STI by age 25
- Experts state that approximately one young person (age 13-24) in the United States is infected with HIV every hour of every day7
- According to CDC, 21% of the 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV are between the ages of 13-24, and 1 in 7 of them don’t know that they are infected
- 16% of teens (ages 14-19) have a herpes infection
Contributing factors to these alarming statistics of STDs in young people were found in a survey conducted by the CDC of high school students in 2015. 41% of high school teens have had sexual intercourse. Of this 41%:
- 43% did not use a condom
- 14% did not use any type of contraceptive
- 21% were under the influence of alcohol or drugs before last sexual intercourse
- 10% have ever been tested for HIV
- 42.8% of teenage females and 26.4% of teenage males have discussed STDs and STD testing with their health care professional during a routine check-up8
One of the most commonly reported STDs in the United States, among all age groups, is chlamydia. Chlamydia is considered a “silent” infection because it can be present in the body with no physical signs or symptoms. Only 25% of infected females have discovered the infection due to symptoms and, therefore, is quickly passed from person to person without the knowledge of either party.
The ability for chlamydia to infect an individual for long periods without physical symptoms is the leading factor in the widespread nature of chlamydia in America today.
Women under the age of 25 are particularly at risk of chlamydia. Transmission of chlamydia is more efficient when passed from male to female than from female to male. This is due to the nature and composition of the female genitalia and reproductive system. Additionally, men often go undiagnosed for more extended periods of time, allowing more opportunities for transmission of the STD.
If a chlamydia infection is left untreated, it can result in more severe medical complications including damage to the internal organs, tissues, reproductive system, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an increased risk of ovarian cancer, and in severe cases, death.
The good news is that chlamydia is one of the STDs that can be treated and cured with antibiotics. However, the only way to treat chlamydia is to identify it. Regular and routine STD testing is recommended for any sexually active individual.
Pregnancy and Chlamydia
Chlamydia is a prevalent STD found in pregnant women. Unidentified and untreated chlamydia infections during pregnancy can lead to devastating consequences for both the mother and child.
- Post natal uterine infection
- Miscarriages, premature births, and stillbirths
- Increased of infected amniotic fluid
- Low birth weight
- Baby can develop an eye infection (conjunctivitis) or pneumonia
STDAware offers no-cost medical consultations and treatment options for anyone who tests positive for having an STD.
Awareness & Prevention
Establishing and growing more programs that focus on educating our teen and young adult population on the risks associated with sex and safe sex practices is one of the many focuses that will significantly assist in decreasing the number of teenage pregnancies and STDs. Additionally, access to contraceptive and reproductive health services and community support can help teens make healthy choices about relationships and sex.
Below are just a few ways to help increase awareness and encourage safe sex practices in our young adult and teen population.
- Encourage your kids and teens to ask questions
- Talk with your own kids and teens about the risks of sex and safe sex practices
- Attend or create a workshop for parents on how to talk about sex with their children
- Cultivate open communications with your teen(s) so they feel safe speaking with you about these sensitive issues. If you are not comfortable providing that level of support, create alternatives for them like a trusted medical advisor or counselor
- Get involved in or create a program or community program working to prevent teen pregnancy or support teen mothers
- Organize or participate in teen pregnancy prevention programs with schools, health or social services to build relationships and mentor at-risk youth
- Work with schools to pass out and put up flyers with teen pregnancy statistics and the health risks at high school dances and events
Defend the sexual health of our future generations!
Educate yourself and your teens! STDAware offers no-cost resources and consultations. Click here to find out more about the STD testing and treatment options offered by STDAware.
Summary & Recap
While the numbers are declining, teen pregnancy and STD rates are at a critical status in the United States, today, and more can be done to educate and prevent these numbers from rising.
As our young and future generation take their place in society, it is vital to the health and wellbeing of the country to take part in better serving and educating our young people on the risks and rewards of safe sex practices.
All sexually active individuals should be routinely screened for STDs. Aside from abstinence, pre-emptive STD screening before sexual activity with a new partner is a critical factor in preventing the spread of any STD.
The Medical and Advice Staff at STDAware is available to speak with you about your testing and treatment options.