Document Type




Publication Date



Catholic Medical Association

Source Publication

Linacre Quarterly

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Oral contraceptives (OCs) are often prescribed to adolescents and young adults for the treatment of health problems and to avoid unwanted pregnancies. We hypothesized that the use of OCs, among adolescents and young adults, is associated with a greater likelihood of pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and sexual behaviors that will enhance those problems (i.e., earlier sexual debut and more sexual partners) than adolescents and young adults not using OCs. To test this hypothesis, data from 1,365 adolescents and young adults in the 2011–2013 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) were used to describe the influence of ever use of OCs on ever having sex, sexual debut, multiple sexual partners, STDs, PID, pregnancy, and abortion. A secondary purpose was to evaluate protective factors from unhealthy sexual practices like religiosity, church attendance, and intact families. We found that the “ever use” of OCs by US adolescents and young adults results in a greater likelihood of ever having sex, STDs, PID, pregnancy, and abortion compared with those adolescents and young adults who never used OCs. Furthermore, those adolescents who ever used OCs had significantly more male sexual partners than those who never used OCs, and they also had an earlier sexual debut by almost two years. Conversely, we found that frequent church attendance, identification of the importance of religion, and having an intact family among adolescents were associated with less likelihood of unsafe sexual practices. We concluded that the use of OCs by adolescents and young adults might be considered a health risk. Further research is recommended to confirm these associations.

Summary: The purpose of this article was to show the correlation between contraceptive use in adolescents and negative sexual outcomes. We used data from the 2011–2013 NSFG and demonstrated that never married adolescents who used oral hormonal contraception were three times more likely to have an STD, have PID, and to become pregnant, and, surprisingly, ten times more likely of having an abortion compared to noncontracepting adolescents. These are outcomes that contraception is intended to prevent. These data also showed that the contraceptors had significantly more male partners than their contraceptive counterparts. Protective factors such as church attendance and family cohesiveness were associated with a decreased likelihood of sexual activity.


Accepted version. The Linacre Quarterly, Vol. 85, No. 2 (May 1, 2018): 167-177. DOI. © 2018 Catholic Medical Association. Used with permission.

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