May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, so what better time for me to deliver some information on this issue.
First of all, teen pregnancy rates are lower than they have been in three decades. Does that mean you should not discuss this issue with your teen? Not at all. Teen pregnancies are higher in rural parts of the US compared to urban areas. Teens are also less apt to choose safe sex in rural versus urban areas. Considering where we live makes this an even more important conversation to have with a teen.
The first step in discussing teen pregnancy with your teen is to sit down with them for a conversation. Listen to what they know or believe about their risk of getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant. Do some myth busting with them regarding their biases. They should know that less than half of high school students have had sex, not the majority.
Sadly, your teenager should know that teen pregnancy is the leading reason teen girls drop out of school. Again, this is information to share in a conversation with your adolescent son or daughter.
Teens also need to know that you can get pregnant the first time you have sex or when menstruating. The myth that you cannot is common and widespread. Anyone can get pregnant the first time, especially if they don’t use protection.
Abstinence is the only 100% effective way to prevent pregnancy. But recommending abstinence, without discussing other ways to have safe sex, doesn’t protect teens. In fact, the abstinence-only approach has resulted in some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country.
A sexually active young woman who doesn’t use contraceptives has a 90 percent chance of becoming pregnant within a year. When that same young woman uses contraception, her pregnancy prevention can be up to 99 percent effective. Adding another form of birth control, like a condom, can bring that percentage even closer to 100 percent.
Hopefully, you won’t have to labor over these tips when making sure your teen knows the facts about teen pregnancy.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.