Teen pregnancies and births in Minnesota dropped sharply in 2014, according to a state report released Wednesday, extending a long trend and defying a common misconception that today’s youths are hypersexual.
Minnesota’s teen birthrate dropped by 8 percent in 2014 — and has fallen 58 percent since 1990 — reaching 15.5 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19, the report showed.
“It flies in the face of what many people tend to think is going on with teenagers — that things are as bad as ever,” said Jill Farris, lead author of the report and a University of Minnesota expert in adolescent sexual health training and education.
Health education that focuses on setting goals — and how unexpected pregnancies disrupt those goals — has helped, along with greater access to reliable, long-acting forms of contraception, she said.
But Farris added that the report also showed disparities in certain rural counties and among minority groups that must be addressed. And rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) did not fall. “We should be congratulating young people for making good choices and good decisions … but we still have a lot of work to do,” she said.
The annual adolescent sexual health report was formerly produced by a nonprofit organization called Teenwise, but it closed last fall, prompting the U to publish the work instead.
Like prior studies, this year’s report showed higher birthrates among Minnesota’s American Indian and Hispanic teens, and in certain diverse rural counties such as Watonwan and Mahnomen.
This year’s report was the first to compare rates of teen sexual activity with adverse life experiences such as child neglect, spousal abuse or parental incarceration. Teens enduring four such adverse childhood experiences were almost 50 percent more likely to have sex than other teens.
The 3,561 teen pregnancies reported for 2014 resulted in 2,710 births, a gap explained by pregnancies terminated through abortion and by fetal anomalies that resulted in miscarriages.
That gap has narrowed as well since 1990, reflecting a decline in teen abortions in the state.
Oddly, teen births have dropped while rates of STIs have not; the number of Minnesotans ages 15 to 19 with chlamydia or gonorrhea infections has remained somewhat steady over the past four years.
Farris said this reflects changes in contraception. Sexually active young women are making better use of “set it and forget it” forms of long-acting contraception, she said, but use of condoms, which can also prevent infections, appears to be declining.
The report did not indicate whether today’s teens are more likely to be sexually active. That question is addressed by the Minnesota Student Survey, which is completed every three years by high school students, with new results expected this fall.