Yup, we are going there. A subject that makes a lot of parents (and their teenagers, too!) squirm. But, it’s a fact of life, and you should be talking to them about it. Because like it or not, there’s information everywhere. Good AND bad. And just like we talked to them about staying away from strangers, it’s our job as parents, to give them the right information so they can make the right decisions when it comes to sex. So, let’s delve into it.
YOUNG WOMEN – Contraception has a lot of different benefits. We use it for multiple purposes: improving acne, lessening painful periods, relieving heavy periods that can result in iron deficiency anemia, and of course, for reducing the chance of pregnancy. An interesting fact about oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) is that they can reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer (both by 50%). And these risks are reduced the longer a person is on them. But this, of course, means that girls need to actually take them. This is part of the conversation we have in the office. Taking a pill every day can be difficult, even for the most responsible person – and when days are missed, the effectiveness is lowered (the average effectiveness of OCPs are 91%). Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) is the MOST efficacious form of birth control. LARC is often referred to as a “set it and forget it” type of contraception. LARC includes IUD’s and Nexplanon (a small implant that is inserted in the arm). Both are 99% effective. They can be easily inserted at a GYN’s office. Many people still think that IUDs and Nexplanon are for older women, but they are actually the preferred form of contraception in sexually active teens. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s statement regarding LARC reads: “with top-tier effectiveness, high rates of satisfaction and continuation, and no need for daily adherence, LARC methods should be first-line recommendations for adolescents.” Talk to us if you need a recommendation of a good OB/GYN in the area for your teen to get an IUD or Nexplanon inserted.
Next up is EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION. All young women should know this is an option and it’s usually a part of my sex talk during teen physicals. It is an option if unprotected sex occurs, or if there is condom failure (breakage or it falls off). Plan B is available over the counter, although it’s important to know that it’s not next to the tylenol on the shelves. You have to ask the pharmacist for it. It works best if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex but can be taken within 120 hours of it. There is also a prescription form of Plan B called Ella, that is more effective and can be taken longer after unprotected sex. A patient can call our office for the prescription anytime. I tell young women that emergency contraception is a MUCH better option than sitting around and worrying for a month to get a period. It is NOT an abortion pill. It works by making the egg impermeable to the sperm. It can take days for the sperm to get to the egg, hence the reason why the sooner you take it, the better.
YOUNG MEN – Contraception is a little simpler. Condoms reduce the chance of pregnancy AND decreases the likelihood of contracting STDs. So, for your teen boy, this is something that needs to be preached over and over and over. It should never be an option. Your boys are going to hear from their friends that it doesn’t feel as good with one on, they might forget one, etc. etc. And the biggest one I hear is, “Well my girlfriend is on the pill.” Well that isn’t good enough. Because on average, the pill is 91% effective which means that 9 out of 100 birth control users will get pregnant every year. That should be scary. Adding condoms is the extra insurance everyone needs if they don’t want to get pregnant AND if they don’t want to get STDs.
Which brings me to my next scary part of my talk. STDs. Sexually active individuals should be screened routinely and there is good reason for it. Chlamydia is EVERYWHERE. We diagnosis it at an alarming rate at our office. Yes, it can be treated, but if left untreated for a prolonged time, it can cause infertility in men and women and other infectious consequences – epididymitis in men and pelvic inflammatory disease in women. And there also has to be real talk with teens about the STDs that can’t be so readily erased: HIV, herpes, HPV/genital warts. These are lifelong diseases from split second decisions on whether to wear a condom or not.
And last, but certainly not least, a big part of talking about sex with your kids should also be talking about CONSENT. And this is also a talk to have with both genders. Not just your girls. If you have been on Facebook at all within the past few weeks, you have seen the #metoo hashtag sweeping the social media world. Sexual assault and date rape is rampant on college campuses and occurs in high school at an alarming rate. Proper consent is questionable if your adolescent or young adult is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and they need to understand that. Adolescents and young adults need to understand that their risk of non-consensual sex quadruples when alcohol and drugs are involved. Talk to them honestly about sex, drugs, and partying. If they don’t feel comfortable in a situation, what is their plan if they want an out. Most teens are curious and want more information. Let that information be from you, not the internet and not from their friends.
A GREAT article about consent at all ages that I encourage you to read is from the Huffington Post.