Technology & Science

Canada's teen pregnancy rate falls

Researchers say sex education and easier access to birth control explain a drop in Canada's teen pregnancy rate of nearly 37 per cent over a 10-year period ending in 2006.

Teen pregnancy rates in Canada dropped nearly 37 per cent over a decade, say researchers who point to some of the reasons why.

The study, released Wednesday in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, showed Canada's rates of teen pregnancies between 1996 to 2006 declined 36.9 per cent, compared with a 25 per cent decline in the U.S., a 4.75 per cent fall in England and a 19.1 per cent increase in Sweden.

The researchers compared the most recent trends in teen pregnancy or birth/abortion rates.

"In 2006, the lowest teen birth/abortion rate per 1,000 women aged 15-19 was in Canada (27.9) followed by Sweden (31.4), England/Wales (60.3), and the U.S.A. (61.2)," the study's authors wrote. 

Sex education and easier access to birth control partially explain why far fewer teenage girls are getting pregnant, said Alexander McKay, research co-ordinator at The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, which released the study.

"More and more young women in Canada are feeling optimistic about educational and employment opportunities," said McKay. "When that tends to be the case, we tend to see lower teen pregnancy rates."

The decline in teen pregnancies didn't surprise teenage girls at Jarvis Collegiate in Toronto.

Girls are "smarter now, so they choose to use protection," said one girl.

"In my area, there's a walk-in clinic. There's people there to talk to if you have any questions about birth control and stuff like that," said another.

The study also found about 50 per cent of all 16- and 17-year-olds are sexually active, according to Statistics Canada. That figure hasn't changed, McKay said.

Canada's teen pregnancy rate is usually defined as births, abortions and stillbirths or miscarriages, but because of differences in the data among the four countries, the teen pregnancy rate for this study was calculated based on live births and abortions only.

Teen miscarriage rates were so low that they likely had little impact, the researchers said.