Sunday, January 31, 2010

Teen Pregnancy

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, MD (Retired Surgeon General) opinion on how to reduce teenage pregnancy.

Teenagers need two basic things to avoid pregnancy, 1) education and 2) contraceptive availability. This short answer doesn’t give the whole picture. Truly, we need to understand both our cultural values and human biology to make wise decisions about teenagers. Adults forget how it feels to be a teenager with raging hormones. And teenagers don’t know what their options are to deal with their developing bodies unless they have information and education.
Teenagers have a hormonal imperative to explore their sexuality. They do not "catch" sexuality from their friends, music, dance, or health education, rather teens have a perfectly natural biological drive that says, WOW! to them soon after the advent of puberty. Always has been and always will be this way. It cannot be avoided or evaded, because it is basic human biology.

Our children too often become casualties of the head-on collision of culture and nature because we are afraid to give them information about their bodies and sex. Meanwhile they are learning inappropriate behavior from other adolescents and the media. We confuse innocence and ignorance, and it puts our children's health at risk.

Children need accurate age-appropriate information about their bodies - what parts they have and the function of the parts and what they can expect as they grow and develop.

Before children enter puberty (usually between eight and 12 years of age) they need to know:
•that they are normal
•what menses is and what to expect.
•the nature of feelings their hormones will cause.
•the difference between sexual feelings and love.
•that they will require self-esteem and information to make good choices.

Just saying no is not enough information to give to our children to keep them safe. Teens need to know that they can get contraceptives if they think they might need them. They need to know all of the contraceptive options, how to use them, their effectiveness, and what can happen when having unprotected sex even one time.

Results of what happens when we do not give children and adolescents the information they need may be seen in these statistics:
•Nearly half (46.8%) of all 15-19 year-olds had sexual intercourse at least once.
•14.3% of high school students reported sexual intercourse with four or more persons during their life.
•In 2005, 6.2% of adolescents under the age of 13 reported having sex prior to age 13, 13% by age 15, and 70% by age 19.
•In 2005, 9.2% of high school students were ever physically forced to have intercourse.
•Mean age of sex initiation is 17 years and mean age of marriage is 26 years.

Consequences of unprotected sex:
•Annually, 850,000 U.S. teens become pregnant; more than 450,000 give birth.
•A sexually active teen that does not use contraceptives has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year.
•The birth rate for U.S. teenagers 15–19 years rose three % in 2006, the first increase reported since 1991 and four % for 18-19 year olds.
•During 2006, an estimated 5259 persons ages 13 - 24 were diagnosed with HIV.
•One in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and young people under age 25 experience about 9.1 million STIs annually.

Contraceptive Use:
•Majority of sexually experienced teens used contraceptives the first time they had sex (74% of females, 82% of males).
•The male condom is the most common contraceptive method used at first intercourse (66% females, 72% of males).
•98% of sexually active females have used at least one method of birth control at least once (condom, 94%; pill, 61%).
•25% of teens who used contraceptives the last time they had sex combined two methods, primarily the condom and a hormonal method.
•At most recent sex, 83% of teen females and 91% of teen males used contraceptives compared to 71% of females and 82% of males in 1995.

We also need to face the fact that most teenagers (80 percent) will experience intercourse before the age of 20, as will teens in other industrialized countries and have for decades. Perhaps then, we can finally understand that it is imperative to teach them how to protect themselves. Hiding from the truth can cost our children their lives.
Education helps children, teens and adults make better decisions. Ignorance is not bliss.

No comments: