Birth Control – Reflected in the Numbers

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The National Center for Health Statistics recently published a report that found pregnancy rates in the United States have declined since 1990, with the exception of women in their 30s and 40s.

The data was compiled between 1990 and 2008 and analyzed by The National Center for Health Statistics, which allowed the agency to observe trends over the past two decades. What they found was a decline in pregnancies, an overall reduction in abortions, and fewer live births.

Pregnancy rates for black and hispanic teenagers are still two to three times the pregnancy rate of white teens, but there has been an overall drop in the number of pregnancies for black and hispanic teens. In fact, the number of teenage pregnancies in 2008 was 40% lower than the number of teenage pregnancies in 1990 – and the teenage pregnancy rate has not been so low since 1976.

In addition, the number of abortions among teenagers declined 56%, with fewer abortions among all age groups. These statistics suggest there have been fewer unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.

Though the highest pregnancy rate was among women between the ages of 25 and 29, there has still been a decline in the number of pregnancies for this age group (albeit slight), with the only increase in pregnancy rates among women in their 30s and early 40s.

The data hints at an increased use, or more effective form, of birth control, which would allow more women to better plan their pregnancies. The rise in pregnancies among 30- and 40-year-old women may reflect an increase in the number of women that want to start a family after establishing their careers.

Decreased pregnancy rates may not be a result of birth control methods alone; a combination of other factors, such as further education, increased accessibility to information (the Internet), and the economy, may have played a part in the pregnancy decline as well.

Even so, birth control has empowered women in the United States by giving us the ability to choose when and if we want to start a family and how big that family will be. With more freedom (whether it’s due to having no children or just fewer mouths to feed), women can focus on their education, pursue career paths, and live adventurously. Of course, birth control methods could still use some improvement.

Elena Perez obtained a B.A. in American Literature at UCLA, but a growing interest in environmental issues led her to enroll in science classes and gain lab experience at UCSD and SIO. The close link between our ocean’s health and our own well-being has spurred Elena to explore the role environmental toxins play in our growth and development.


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