Are You Above Average?

As a woman, do you consider yourself above average?

I mean, in terms of your reproductive life span? Don’t know what I’m talking about? That’s okay, I’ll explain later.

First I want to share some great news. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that teen birth rates have dropped a dramatic 9% from 2009 to 2010 — to the lowest level ever recorded in the United States.

This is the third year in a row that teen birth rates in the U.S. have decreased. And here’s more good news.  The rates of abortions and teen pregnancies are also dropping, so it seems that the decrease in the teen birth rate corresponds to a drop in the teen pregnancy rate.

You might think this means that teens have become less sexually active, but that’s not the case.  According to researchers, there has been no significant change in the overall proportion of teens aged 15-19 engaging in sexual activity.

So what’s behind the drop in teen birth rates?

Researchers say the decrease can be linked almost exclusively to improvements in young women’s contraceptive use. They say that teens and young adults in their 20’s are using more reliable hormonal methods of birth control and using them more effectively.  That’s really good news!

Why is access to reliable birth control and the effective use of contraception so important?  Because most women in the U.S. spend a huge chunk of our lives — 30 years on average — trying to avoid pregnancy.  For many of us, that’s more than one-third of our lives!

Women who have sex with men learn to assume much of the responsibility for preventing unplanned pregnancies. When we have a birth control method failure, we sweat it out — waiting for the period we hope will come. As teens and young adults, it can take us a while to find the method that works for us, one we can use consistently and successfully. As we get older, our circumstances and our bodies may change in ways that mean we need to switch methods.

Using contraception may become more routine as we get older, but pregnancy prevention is still very much a constant backdrop to most women’s lives — for an average of 30 years.

Contraception is such an important part of our lives for so many years!  It needs to be reliable, easy to use, appropriate for our lifestyles, affordable and accessible.

Want to find out how you compare to the national average?

Here’s a little formula I put together for you:

Start with the age you stopped having periods altogether ____ (if you are still having periods, use the average age for US women — it’s 51).

Subtract the age  you started having sex ____.

Then subtract the number of years you spent pregnant ____ (if you haven’t had children, calculate this number based on how many pregnancies you hope to have in your lifetime).

Now subtract the number of years you were abstinent _____.

If you are a fertile woman who has sex with men, the answer you get is roughly the number of years in your lifetime you will have to do something to keep from getting pregnant.

Using this formula, my own number comes is 28 — a little below the US average.

During my 51 years on the planet, I’ve spent 28 years making sure I didn’t get pregnant. That’s a lot of years for something to go wrong and to end up with an unplanned pregnancy.

I’m so glad that increasing numbers of young women and teens, who are just starting out on their reproductive life paths, have access to a variety of safe, effective, reliable birth control methods.  And the information they need to avoid getting pregnant until they are really and truly ready.

What’s your number?  How has your life been affected by the availability, or not, of effective contraception?

~ Nancy

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