Minnesota teen pregnancy down, STD rates rising

Published 8:10 pm Friday, June 8, 2018

ST. PAUL — Pregnancies and birth rates dipped to historic lows among Minnesota teens, while sexually transmitted diseases continue climbing, according to a report by the University of Minnesota.

The 2018 Minnesota Adolescent Sexual Health Report was conducted by the Medical School’s Healthy Youth Development – Prevention Research Center, Minnesota Public Radio reported . The study found that the pregnancy rate of 15- to 19-year-olds dropped by more than 70 percent from 1990 to 2016, while births decreased during that same time period.

The decline is likely caused by delayed sexual activity and an increase in highly effective contraception, researchers said.

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People age 15 to 19 accounted for 25 percent of chlamydia cases and 18 percent of gonorrhea cases last year, though that age range only accounts for about 7 percent of the state’s population, the report said.

“The messages around pregnancy prevention have sunk in and young people are considering it a really important thing to avoid pregnancy and that’s great,” said report author Jill Farris, who is also the director of the center. “But we also need to stress the importance of avoiding sexually transmitted infections, too.”

The implementation of universal STD testing in schools, street outreach and home-based screening could help address the rising rates of STDs, the report said.

Teens of color have higher rates of STDs and births, Farris said.

“We should be thinking about how we can provide health care services that are culturally relevant and supportive and attractive to young folks of all backgrounds,” she said.

The report recommended schools, after school programs, clinics and faith communities should seek to have open, nonjudgmental conversations with young people about sex. Doctors and nurses should also stress the importance of condoms, even with people who use birth control.