Teen Pregnancy Prevention

Help teenagers understand why teen pregnancy prevention is so important. Learn how teen pregnancy affects teen health, social and economic situations, and life-long opportunities. Find ways to help teens develop skills and traits to make better choices.

According to teen pregnancy statistics, almost 1 million teen girls gets pregnant each year, which puts the teen mothers and their babies at increased risk for social, economic, and health problems throughout their lives. Teen pregnancies can be prevented by teaching teens about the risks of teen sex and how to make choices that will create healthier lives for themselves and their future families.

Teens and Sex Education

Educating teens about sex is an important part of  teen pregnancy prevention. Education for teen pregnancy prevention should start well before a person is a teen, however, with age appropriate discussions about:

  • Healthy relationships and how they relate to love and sex
  • How their bodies work, and how to respect their bodies and the bodies of others
  • How contraceptives work and what side effects and limitations they might have, such as not preventing some STDs. For instance, condoms, when used correctly and consistently, are the best form of birth control for preventing STDs, but are still not completely effective.
  • The fact that abstinence is the only guaranteed way to prevent pregnancy and STDs, and that people should wait to have sex until they are ready for the responsibilities of parenthood that can result.
  • The reality that most teens who get pregnant face significant health risks as well as diminished economic and social opportunities

Teen pregnancy prevention education should target boys and girls so that both understand the potential consequences of sexual activity.

Teen pregnancy prevention can involve a number of concerned people and programs working together, including parents, schools, religious organizations, medical professionals, communities, businesses, and government organizations. Parents, however, are the most important influence on a teen’s choices regarding sexual activity. Teens rate the importance of their parents’ opinions very highly when deciding whether or not to have sex, and parents have the opportunity to teach their children about responsible relationships beginning at a young age.

  • Parents should teach teens about their values regarding relationships and teen sex, and emphasize the importance of waiting for sex until they are married, or until they are older.
  • Teens should be given reasons for why they should not become pregnant or be sexually active, for instance, because it goes against their family’s values or can diminish a teen’s opportunities in life.
  • Parents should let teens know that they can ask questions about sex.
  • Parents should start early with honest, age-appropriate conversations about love, relationships, values, and sex. For instance, if something comes on the television that parents are uncomfortable with or disagree with, they can to explain to their child why what they saw was wrong or unrealistic.

An ongoing conversation about relationships, values, and sex is much more effective than having “the talk.”

Skills and traits teens need to make wise choices

In addition to teaching their teens about values and sex, parents can help teen pregnancy prevention by building the skills and traits teens need to make wise choices regarding sex:

  • Encourage your teen to develop self-discipline and the ability to delay gratification by setting small goals, such as saving money to buy something they want.
  • Emphasize the importance of getting an education and setting long-term goals, and set a good example by taking an interest in your teen’s schoolwork and being involved in ongoing educational activities like reading or taking classes.
  • Help your teen develop a sense of his or her own value and potential. Be supportive of your teen’s positive activities, and spend time everyday listening to your teen and expressing your interest, support, and love for him or her.
  • Help teens feel strong ties to their family, school, and community. Teach them about their heritage and do things together as a family. Encourage teens to be involved at their school or place of worship and in positive activities like volunteering in their community.
  • Set clear, consistent rules for your teens and enforce consequences when the rules are broken. The consequences should be fair, and should not involve yelling or hitting. For instance, set a rule with the teen that if he or she misses curfew then he or she is grounded for a week or may not drive the car. Then if the teen does break curfew, enforce the punishment you agreed on.

Parents role in teen pregnancy prevention

Parents also play a role in reducing risk factors for teen pregnancy:

  • Teens should never be left unsupervised after school - this is the most dangerous time for teenagers, not only for sex, but also for drugs and violence. Parents should know where their teens are, whom they are with, and what they are doing every day.
  • Do not allow dating before age 16, and always discourage teens from dating anyone much older or much younger than they are - 2 or 3 years apart is probably the most you should allow. Encourage group dating.
  • Pay attention to the media your teens watch and listen to, including movies, television, music, and the Internet and tell them what is and isn’t appropriate. Consider keeping TVs and computers in public places so you can monitor what your teens are doing or watching and talk to them about it.
  • Set a good example of healthy, responsible relationships in your marriage or dating life.

Other adults and organizations can also help teens to avoid the above risk factors and to develop a sense of the importance of education, long-term goals, and their own self worth. Parents, schools, health clinics, and trained mentors can all help teens understand the importance of waiting to have sex, of practicing safer sex, and of the life-altering consequences of teen pregnancy.


U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, Adolescent Pregnancy [online]

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Teen Pregnancy: So What? October 2006 [online]

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 10 Tips for Parents to Help Their Teens Avoid Teen Pregnancy [online]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, A National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Annual Report 1997-1998, June 1998 [online]

Related Article: Reasons for Teen Pregnancies >>