Good job teens, you're getting pregnant less (but watch those STIs)

Minnesota teens are generally good at not getting pregnant, but not so good at preventing STIs.
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Teen pregnancy rates in Minnesota are at "historic lows," but there has been a sharp increase in sexually transmitted infections.

That's from the University of Minnesota's annual "Adolescent Sexual Health Report" for 2017, which found pregnancy rates among 15- to 19-year-olds in Minnesota fell 70 percent between 1990-2015 – with teen birth rates following suit.

Here's a look at the pregnancy and birth rates among teenagers in Minnesota since 1990, which shows there was also a significant fall in pregnancies between 2014 and 2015 alone.

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But those STIs

U of M adolescent sexual health training director Jill Farris puts the declining pregnancy rate down to young people making "wise and healthy decisions."

Though that same wisdom doesn't apparently apply when it comes to protecting themselves against STIs, rates of which rose significantly in 2016.

The report found teen rates of gonorrhea are up 40 percent over the past year, and chlamydia rates are up 15 percent.

Farris called the increasing rate "concerning," saying a contributing factor to this is a reduction in the use of condoms, which is the only type of birth control that protects against both pregnancy against STIs. (Though as TeenHealth points out, condoms aren't as effective at preventing pregnancy as other contraceptives).

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"Youth are talking with their partners more about preventing pregnancy and STIs, yet the rate of condom use is declining," she said.

Minnesota's teens are having sex less than the national average, with 11 percent of ninth graders and 35 percent of 11th graders reported ever having sex. That's compared to 24 and 50 percent nationally, respectively.

What's encouraging for state health officials is that more teens are speaking with their partners about preventing pregnancy and against STIs.

Regional differences stand out

A breakdown of pregnancy and STI rates highlight stark differences between greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

The counties with the highest birth rates among teenagers were all from greater Minnesota, with Mahnomen, Chippewa and Lake counties having the three highest rates.

STIs meanwhile appear to be a bigger problem in the Twin Cities, with Hennepin and Ramsey Counties having the highest rates for gonorrhea, while Hennepin has the second highest rate for chlamydia.

Mahnomen County, which is entirely in the White Earth Indian Reservation, has the highest chlamydia rate as well as the highest teen birth rate, with the U of M study finding that between 2014 and 2015, teen birth rates declined for every racial group except American Indians.

The American Indian birth rate among 15- to 19-year-olds in Minnesota was 41.3 per thousands teens in 2015 – that's significantly higher than American Indians in the rest of the country.

The birth rate among black and Hispanic teens declined 20 and 17 percent respectively.

The chlamydia rate however is disproportionately high for black teenagers in Minnesota, with 6,535 cases per 100,000 population, compared to 1,589 for Hispanic, 937 for American Indian, and 702 for white Minnesotans.

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