Teen pregnancies declined in Minnesota in 2022 after increasing in 2021, easing concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic had upset decades of progress on teen and adolescent sexual health.

University of Minnesota experts were surprised by the rapid turnaround, but they said it was a testament to sexual education programs at schools and clinics that were shut down early in the pandemic but eventually restored. The annual number of births among females 15 to 19 had yo-yoed in the 2020-2022 time frame from 2,395 to 3,024 to 2,428, according to the U's adolescent sexual health report.

"It really was just a one-year blip," said Jill Farris, an author of the report who directs a U center for adolescent sexual health training and education. "Of course, we'll keep our eye on things, but I would expect for next year and subsequent years for the trend to continue in a downward fashion."

Teen pregnancies have declined more than 70% in Minnesota since 1990.


Whether teens had more sex amid the pandemic is unclear, because Minnesota only surveys students every three years on their social and health behaviors and has no data for 2020 and 2021. Sexual activity had been declining for years, but Farris said it wouldn't be surprising if it briefly increased during the pandemic, when teens endured periodic school closures and lost access to part-time jobs and extracurricular activities that can otherwise occupy their time.

"Even though we were in lockdown and people weren't supposed to be seeing folks outside their households, clearly those things still took place," she said.

Only 29% of 11th-graders reported in 2022 that they had ever had sex, down from 34% in 2019, according to survey data.

Teens lost some access to contraception when clinics and pharmacies reduced hours or limited appointments during the pandemic, which also could have played a role in the pregnancy data.

The pandemic-era trends differed slightly in Minnesota when it comes to teen births, which declined each year and reached a low of 1,496 in 2022. A separate state report showing a rise in abortions among teens in 2021 could explain why births didn't increase that year even though pregnancies did.

Teen birthrates declined more sharply among Minnesota's minority populations in 2022, but not enough to erase wide racial disparities. The teen birthrate remained six times higher for American Indians than for white Minnesotans and five times higher for the state's Hispanic population.

The data can raise as many questions as it answers, though. Teen abortions continued to rise in Minnesota in 2022, even though pregnancies and births declined. An abortion clinic moved across the North Dakota border to Moorhead that year, which likely played a role because its numbers didn't previously contribute to Minnesota's total. Clinic leaders also believe more women from other states listed Minnesota for their addresses because of legal concerns about bans imposed in their home states.

Sexually transmitted infections also continued to decline among teens through the pandemic years, the U report showed, but that could be partly due to a decline in testing. The state recalled many testing supplies early in the pandemic from clinics in order to repurpose them for COVID-19 testing.