Advocates for birth control, sex education, and reproductive health rights point to that kind of parent-child dialogue as a reason for the change in the teen birthrate. They say parents are no longer in ready denial about their teen's sexual activity. Young people, too, are educating themselves about their options.
Currently 26 states and the District of Columbia allow minors to consent to contraceptive services without a parent's approval. Another 20 states allow some minors – those who have health issues, or are married, pregnant, or deemed mature – to do the same. But it's education and communication that make the difference, advocates say. And teens are listening.
"I've always planned on living an adventurous and mobile life," says Reis-Dennis, now a junior at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. "Pregnancy is something that is a huge responsibility that I know I'm not ready for." She adds: "I would really encourage parents to bring up the conversation. Even if they think their teenager doesn't want to hear it."
Increasing numbers of teens are seeking out birth control, according to a Guttmacher Institute analysis of CDC data from the National Survey of Family Growth. Among sexually active teens, 37 percent used hormonal contraceptives between 2006 and 2008. Between 2008 and 2010, that number rose to 47 percent.
Advocates also note an uptick in "dual use" protection – teen boys are using condoms and their female partners are on birth control. Almost one-quarter – 23.2 percent – of 15-to-19-year-olds in the National Survey of Family Growth embraced both methods between 2008 and 2010, according to Guttmacher, which promotes sexual and reproductive health through research. That's up from 16.1 percent over the prior two-year period.