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Sex Facts: Clueless teens are getting pregnant

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Alarming study shows teen ignorance

Would you believe that a significant number of teenage mothers say they didn’t know they could get pregnant? Could teens really be this clueless? Are we failing to educate our teens on basic sex facts?

Teen girl pregnancy test

A study on teen pregnancy recently appeared in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found that a large number of teenage participants didn't realize they could get pregnant, leaving plenty of parents asking, "What were they thinking?"

The study

The U.S. leads the developed world when it comes to teens giving birth (approximately 400,000 teens give birth each year). In an effort to determine why teens who want to avoid pregnancy become pregnant, this study questioned 5,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 who qualified their pregnancies as unintended.

Of the 50.1 percent who said they didn't use any contraceptive methods, 31.4 percent said they didn't believe they could get pregnant at the time. While these numbers indicate the prevalence of a tremendous misconception, the study didn't probe further into the reasons behind these thoughts. Clearly teens aren't being taught basic sex facts, but who is responsible for this lack of education?

Read about discussing sex and birth control with your teen >>

What were they thinking?

Bill Albert, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.based National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, tells the Associated Press, "This report underscores how much misperception, ambivalence and magical thinking put teens at risk for unintended pregnancy."

This study sounds the alarm for parents who may think their child will make wise decisions when it comes to sex. "I think I've done a pretty good job explaining the birds and the bees," says Amy, a mother of two from Colorado. "But this study makes me want to take the message even further, just to make sure there is no discrepancy when it comes to the facts. I'm really floored by these numbers."

Find out how to tell the family your teen is pregnant >>

A parenting dilemma

Talking to kids about sex is a necessary, but often uncomfortable, parenting responsibility. Does this study indicate that parents aren't fulfilling this crucial responsibility?

"I don't know many parents who really enjoy talking to their kids about sex," says Nicole, a mother of two from Los Angeles. "But parenting isn't easy. I'd rather be a little uncomfortable and make sure my kids understand what leads to pregnancy than have my child face hugely adult challenges before she's prepared."

Ask yourself, are we glamorizing teen moms? >>

The take away

This study is full of alarming findings but the two that stand out are that half of unintended teenage mothers say they didn't use any contraception and that a third of those teens say they didn't realize they could get pregnant. Above all, this study highlights a significant communication breakdown when it comes to teens and sex facts. Perhaps parents can embrace these findings when considering how to approach the topic with their teens.

Read the complete study here.

Tell us

Does it surprise you to learn how many teens don't know the birds and the bees? Do you talk sex facts with your teen?

Read more about teenage pregnancy

Teenage pregnancy tips
The teens and birth control debate
School passing out condoms to elementary students

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