ST. LOUIS (CBS St. Louis) – Providing free contraception for teens dramatically reduces unintended pregnancies, suggests a new study.
More than 9,000 women ages 14 to 45 participated in the study, called the Contraceptive CHOICE Project.
The women were counseled about contraceptives that emphasized the long-acting methods, which have been proven to be most effective. They were then provided their contraceptive of choice, free of charge, and followed for two to three years.
Researchers looked specifically at data from 1,404 of the participants from ages 15 to 19 years old, 72 percent of whom used an IUD or other contraceptive implant.
During the study period, the yearly rate of pregnancy was 3.4 percent, versus 15.9 percent among this age group in the general population.
The yearly rate of abortions was less than 1 percent for teens in the study, versus 4 percent for teens overall.
“IUDs and implants are only used by probably less than 5 percent of adolescents nationwide,” co-author Dr. Jeffrey Peipert, with the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told Live Science. “We were surprised at how commonly selected these methods were, that was shocking to us.”
Nearly 16 percent of sexually experienced female teens get pregnant in a given year, on average. But fewer than 4 percent of the teens who received free contraception did in the new study.
The biggest barrier can be cost, Peipert stated. “These methods can cost up to $700 for the device itself, and then insertion costs can easily put it over $1,000.”
The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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