May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is raising awareness about this important topic.
Health officials say Montana has drastically improved in recent years, but the state’s teen birth rate is still higher than the national average. From 2010 to 2015, the national teen birth rate declined by 35%, while Montana lowered its teen birth rate by 30%.
Montana’s current teen birth rate is 25.3 births per 1,000 and the national rate is 22.3 births per 1,000 aged 15-19.
State health officials says initiatives are in place in Montana to make even more improvements. For example, DPHHS supports efforts to reduce teen pregnancy through the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP).
PREP provides evidence-based teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention curriculum to middle and high school students in several locations across Montana.
PREP focuses on the implementation of comprehensive sex-education which teaches about abstinence as the best method for avoiding STIs and unintended pregnancy, but also teaches about condoms and contraception to reduce these risks.
“It can be difficult for society, teachers, and even parents to discuss pregnancy prevention with teens, but we know giving young people honest and accurate information is the best approach,” said DPHHS PREP Program Manager Kimberly Koch. “For example, when parents speak to their children about condoms and contraception before they became sexually active, they are more likely to use protection when they do become sexually active and delay initiation of sexual activity.”
The good news is that unintended teen pregnancy is 100% preventable. “Take action today by promoting open and honest discussions about teen sexuality and pregnancy prevention,” Koch said. “Encourage teens to delay sex, or if they choose to have sex to use a highly effective contraceptive method plus a barrier method like condoms, to significantly decrease one’s risk of pregnancy and STI’s.”
For more information, the 2016 Adolescent Sexual Health Report is also available. This document provides information on teen birth rates, sexual risk behaviors, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).