GRSJ/Teen Pregnancy in Canada

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Teen Pregnancy is defined as the pregnancy of a women between the ages 15-19. Over the past recent decades, teenage pregnancy rates in Canada have steadily declined. This can be due to many reasons, such as the availability of contraceptives, increasing abortion rates, the increase in condom use due to higher HIV/AIDS awareness, and other important social and economic factors. Overall, women have been putting off pregnancy by taking the appropriate measures to safe and protected sex. This page will discuss some important factors contributing to the decline in teenage pregnancy in Canada.


The fact women are delaying marriage and putting off pregnancy can explain the decline in teen pregnancy in Canada. Historically, women were getting married and having babies at a much younger age. Now, women are choosing to get married and have babies later for reasons that will be elaborated on below. There has been a general increase in fertility rates for women between the ages 30-34, while the fertility rate for women between the ages 15-19 has declined. The fertility rate accounts for the number of births per 1,000 women. Additionally, the average age of a Canadian woman’s first birth has been steadily rising since the mid-1960’s. In 2012, the average age of mothers having their first born child was 28.7 years old. In 2016, this rose to 29.2. Now, the average age for child-bearing mothers is at 30 years of age.[1] Evidently, less teens are getting pregnant and more teens are having abortions. In 2012, the fertility rate of Canadian women between the ages of 15-19 was at 11.9 per 1,000 women. In 2016, these numbers fell to about 8.4.[1] Delaying early, unplanned pregnancies can be a result of increased use of and access to contraceptives, increased returns on women's investment on human capital, and the greater dispersion of knowledge due to sex education.

Economic Impacts on Teen Pregnancy

As society has evolved and adapted to new social norms and policies advocating for increased women’s rights, including their increased participation in the workforce, women have been delaying their first pregnancies in pursuit of higher levels of human capital. Human capital refers to skills and knowledge attained from education and training. As returns to human capital increase, women have higher incentives to pursue higher levels of education to maximize their future earning potential. Thus, young women are more likely to delay pregnancy by taking the proper protective measures when engaging in sex, or by getting abortions when or if they do get pregnant.

A teenager with a child is likely to have a hard time finishing school, which is followed by a decrease in job opportunities and future earnings.[2] This further explains why the average age for women to have their first child is 30 years old. Around this time, women would have completed a college/university degree or grad school, and is likely to be earning a stable level of income to support herself and her future family. Higher returns to education have resulted in more female participation in the workforce. In 2015, 82% of women ages 20-54 participated in the workforce, a significant increase 21.6% in the 1950's. [3] Thus, women are less likely to have a child when they are teenagers because overtime, there are more women attending post-secondary than there are men. For example, in 2008, 62% of all university undergraduates were women. [4] The increase in women's rights led to more education and earning potential, which further led to the decline in teen childbearing.

Access to Contraceptives

Another factor contributing to the decrease in Canadian teen pregnancy rates is the access to and the use of contraceptives. Birth control such as the pill, the patch, the IUD, the ring, etc; have become easily accessible to women of all ages across Canada. The "Morning After Pill" or Plan B, is not a form of contraception, but can be useful for accidents during intercourse such as broken condoms. Plan B has also become easily available over-the-counter at any drugstore pharmacy. And of course, the most accessible form of protection is the latex condom. It is important to note that more teenagers are likely to use condoms as a result of society's increased awareness of AID/HIV. Concerns about AIDS led to changes in perceptions about condoms and increases in condom use. [2] In 1995, 38% of females aged 15-19 reported condom use the last time they had sex. In 2006-2010, this number increased to 52%.[2] Greater awareness of sexually transmitted diseases resulted in less risky behaviour among teens during sexual intercourse and therefore contributed to the decline in teen pregnancy rates throughout the years.

Sex Education

Another factor contributing to the declining teenage birth rate is the increase in the quality of sex education in high schools. The use of sex education is meant to adequately prepare and inform teens about the risks of engaging in sexual behaviour. This allows teens to make more informed decisions about their sexual behaviour. It is now evident that comprehensive sex education programs can change the attitudes and behaviours that put teenagers at risk of pregnancy.[5] Additionally, young people are now exposed to media and TV shows on MTV like "16 and Pregnant" or "Teen Mom," that has effectively impacted teen childbearing. These shows followed the lives of four teenage moms from the end of their pregnancy into their early years of motherhood. Lauren Dolgen, the senior vice president of the MTV series, explained that the purpose of documentary series following the lives on teenage moms was to expose the honest, unpleasant truth of teen pregnancy, where young women struggle to make ends meet.[6] (Kearney & Levine, 2015) found that these shows indeed led to a 4.3 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months of initial airing.[7] As a result, sex education programs and widespread media were key components to the steady decline in teen childbearing.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Provencher, C. Millan, A. Hallman, S. D'Aoust, C. (June 5th, 2018). "Report on the Demographic Situation in Canada; Fertility: Overview, 2012 to 2016". Statistics Canada. Retrieved Feb 25th, 2019. Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Boonstra, Heather (September 3, 2014). "What is Behind the Declines in Teen Pregnancy Rates?". Guttmacher Policy Review. 17 – via Guttmacher Institute.
  3. "Fact Sheet: The Gender Wage Gap in Canada" (PDF). Canadian Women's Foundation. August 2018. Retrieved Feb 27, 2019.
  4. Turcotte, Martin (December 2011). "Women and Education". Statistics Canada. Retrieved February 2019. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  5. "International technical guidance sexuality education: an evidence informed approach for school, teachers and health educators". United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. December 2009. Retrieved February 2019. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. Dolgen, Lauren (May 5, 2011). "Why I created MTV's '16 and Pregnant'". CNN Entertainment. Retrieved February 2019. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. Kearney, Melissa. Levine, Phillip. (August 2015). "Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV's 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing" (PDF). American Economic Review. 105: 3597–3632 – via The National Bureau of Economic Research.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)