Public Release: 

Pregnancy prevention programmes are ineffective

Interventions to reduce unintended pregnancies among adolescents: systematic review of randomised controlled trials, BMJ Volume 324, pp 1426-30

BMJ

Pregnancy prevention programmes for adolescents do not delay sexual intercourse, improve use of birth control among young men and women, or reduce the number of pregnancies in young women, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers in Canada reviewed 26 trials of adolescents (aged 11 to 18 years) that evaluated pregnancy prevention programmes including sex education classes, abstinence programmes, family planning clinics, and community based programmes.

The prevention strategies evaluated did not delay the initiation of sexual intercourse or improve use of birth control among adolescents. They also did not reduce pregnancy rates in young women.

A separate analysis of five trials - four abstinence programmes and one school based sex education programme - were associated with an increase in number of pregnancies among partners of young male participants.

This review shows that we do not yet have a clear solution to the problem of high pregnancy rates among adolescents in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, say the authors.

They conclude that design of future pregnancy prevention programmes for young people should be guided by further research that examines:

  • social determinants of unintended pregnancy among young people
  • characteristics of countries with low pregnancy rates in young people
  • characteristics of effective programmes to prevent high risk behaviours in young people
  • suggestions from young people
  • strategies to promote healthy sexual relationships in adulthood

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