Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.
A recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention study of teen sex habits and attitudes revealed many thought-provoking trends and interesting statistics.
The finding that seems to be getting the most headline coverage, though, is that more teens report using the “rhythm method” to avoid pregnancy:
About 17 percent of sexually experienced teen girls say they had used the rhythm method - timing their sex to avoid fertile days to prevent getting pregnant. That’s up from 11 percent in 2002.
While I usually cringe at the secular media’s stubborn clinging to the ancient term “rhythm method” to describe methods of fertility awareness, I think this might be a case where the term actually applies.
The “rhythm method” refers to the outdated practice of using a calendar and a history of regular cycles to predict a woman’s most likely fertile days on which to avoid intercourse. It’s not very scientific and not very effective.
Methods of Natural Family Planning, however, use the most updated technologies to read signs of fertility in a day by day, forward-looking way. As they do not depend upon regular cycles or calendar “predictions,” they are very scientific and (when used correctly) very effective.
The report’s authors are quick to make a link between teens’ use of the “rhythm method” and an increase in teen pregnancy rates:
They may have been using another form of birth control at the same time. But the increase is considered worrisome because the rhythm method doesn’t work about 25 percent of the time, said Joyce Abma, the report’s lead author ... The increase in the rhythm method may be part of the explanation for recent trends in the teen birth rate. The teen birth rate declined steadily from 1991 through 2005, but rose from 2005 to 2007.
I think it’s extremely unlikely that many of the teens who report use of the “rhythm method” to avoid pregnancy are taking their temperatures or studying NaproTechnology, so I’ll let the CDC call their methods of fertility awareness unreliable.
A more likely factor in the increased rates of teen pregnancy, however, is a shift in teen attitudes toward premarital parenthood:
Nearly 64 percent of teen boys said it’s OK for an unmarried female to have a child, up from 50 percent in 2002. More than 70 percent of teen girls agreed, up from 65 percent, though the female increase was not statistically significant.
Here’s where we see the consequences of years of the popular culture’s perversion of truth about sex, marriage, and family. If high school parenthood is generally considered an acceptable thing, the effectiveness rates of teens’ favored methods of preventing pregnancy don’t matter very much at all.
I only hope that the rising numbers of teens using the “rhythm method” indicates an increased awareness of the truth about human reproduction in general and will make it less likely that all those teen pregnancies will result in abortion.