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Bristol Palin and other teen moms: New trendsetters?

Teens' use of contraceptives has declined, and their birthrates have gone up, according to new research.

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Bristol Palin, America's most famous teen mom, may be part of a trend.

After years of improved teen contraceptive use and declines in teen pregnancy and births, the numbers may be reversing among certain groups of teens, according to a joint study by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the Guttmacher Institute.

While rates of teen sexual activity have not changed, the authors found a decline in contraceptive use, leading to an increase in births. Black teens, in particular, have showed reversals of progress, and among all teens, condom use has either reversed or leveled off.

Overall, the research found a 10 percent decline in teen contraceptive protection from 2003 to 2007. The statistic factors in not just the rate of use but also types of contraception, which vary in effectiveness. Also, the teen birthrate went up 5 percent between 2005 and 2007. (Teen pregnancy rates are not yet known for that period.)

"In the end, this story is really about the loss of momentum," says Laura Lindberg, one of the study's authors and a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute. Although the statistical changes are small, "they raise concern about what the next few years will bring in this country."

The US already has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world, with some 750,000 teens getting pregnant annually.

The report suggests that the decline in contraception may be partly a result of the rise in abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education that was favored under the Bush administration. President Obama's budget cuts most funding for abstinence-only, in favor of comprehensive sex ed.

Another possible factor in the reduction of condom use might be a lessening of concern over HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.


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