Study Shows that U.S. Teens Use Morning-After Pill More Often

MP900284944The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released results this week from their annual survey on teen sex and contraception use. The report shows that while teen birth rates have declined over the last decade, use of emergency contraceptive, often called the morning-after pill, has dramatically increased.

The CDC reports that, in 2013, 22% (more than 1 in 5) of sexually active teen girls have used the morning-after pill at least once, compared with only 8% (1 in 12) of girls in 2002.

The morning-after pill can cut the chances of pregnancy by nearly 90%, if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. The drug, which contains a high dose of the hormone progestin that is in regular birth control pills, prevents pregnancy by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary. However, it does not affect an existing pregnancy. Beginning in 2008, teens can buy the pill over the counter (without a prescription) at a price of $35 to $50, which likely has contributed to the increase in teen use over the last decade.

In addition to the dramatic increase in use of the morning-after pill, the CDC report detailed other significant findings about teen sexual activity. In 2011-2013, 44% of teen girls and 47% of teen boys had sexual intercourse at least once. In 1988, it was 60% for boys and 51% for girls. While this is a significant drop in teen sexual activity, the decreases have leveled off for about a decade at 45% for both boys and girls. Most teens who do have sex are using contraception. From 2011 to 2013, nearly 80% of teen girls and 84% of teen boys said they used contraception (most often a condom) the first time they had sex.

Researchers are struggling to determine the meaning behind the increase in use of emergency contraception. It could mean that teens are either using condoms inconsistently or not using contraception at all. It’s important that parents ensure that their teens know that the morning-after pill is not as effective as condoms in preventing pregnancy and that the pill does not protect them from STDs.


To learn more about how parents can talk to their teens about sex and help teens avoid pregnancy and STDs, please read our previous blogs:

Reasons, Consequences, and Prevention Tips for Teen Pregnancy

What Every Teen Must Know About Sex

Common Misconceptions Teens Have About STDs

Way Beyond the Birds and the Bees

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