It was an odd headline for an Associated Press story on the 86 page report on teen sexual activity just released by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Not all that relevant to the broader subject of the study on which the report is based: Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, National Survey of Family Growth 2006-2008. If you’re interested, it is a fascinating read.
But it was the headline and this excerpt from the story that caught my attention:
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.
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. She’s a social scientist at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
You can’t study what you don’t understand. The study authors demonstrate their lack of knowledge about natural birth control methods by the question they asked study participants: Have you ever used rhythm or safe period by calendar to prevent pregnancy?
There are many brands of natural birth control. Some , like the Rhythm and Calendar methods, are not effective. No proponent of Natural Family Planning (NFP) or Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABM), which have effectiveness rates as high as 99.4 percent, would recommend them. Yet this study does nothing to differentiate between these methods of natural birth control, thereby confusing the public, the study results and themselves.
It’s high time researchers studied up on natural birth control methods if they want to include questions about them in a study on the contraceptive practices of teens or adults.
Until they do, I suggest anyone interested in the sexual and reproductive health of teen girls start buying copies of Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body. This book can help our daughters acquire the life skill of body literacy – to understand the mysteries of their menstrual cycles and how this knowledge can serve them well as they make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and lives.