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Keep the Conversation Going With Teens About Sex

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Recently, it was my “office/desk” day and while I am busy answering emails, tweets and phone calls, I had The View on in the background. I keep telling my husband I can multi task! The “ladies” were talking about the rise in teenage pregnancies.

imagesIf you read some of my older posts, you will see that this topic is near and dear to my heart, as I take care of so many teen girls and have been for over 20 years. I too have seen younger girls engaging in pre-marital sex but I have also seen a lot of girls making the choice to abstain from having sex during their teenage years, and some who are committed to not having sex until marriage. I do not think it is just because they have been taught abstinence in our schools.

I must disagree with Elizabeth Hasselbeck on this issue, as she does not think that the rise in teen pregnancies is at all related to “abstinence only” education. I do not think that this is the single reason for the increase in teen pregnancies, but I do think it has contributed to the staggering and disheartening numbers of teen pregnancies that we are seeing. The collective “we” must being doing something wrong as just like the economy, the numbers are telling.

In order for anyone to make good “life choices” you have to have education and education should be all encompassing. If we are allowing our children to watch all of the TV shows that show frequent sex, and go to movies, even PG-13 that have frequent sexual innuendos, and let them have computers and iPhones with internet access to “sites with sex” why are we not teaching them about condoms and birth control as well as abstinence. They are certainly not seeing movie stars using condoms or getting sexually transmitted diseases during a TV show or movie, as there seem to be no consequences in Hollywood (at least on screen).

The idea that adolescents will not have sex if we tell them not to seems as unrealistic to me as trying to tell them to not eat junk food and expecting all of them to listen and eat an apple after school.

I do both things with my patients (discuss why not to have sex, and why you need to eat healthy foods), but at the same time I also educate them about what to do if they do decide to have sex before marriage.

The more openly we discuss sex and sexuality with our teens, the better chance we have of teaching them why it is important to make smart choices, and that means being taught about birth control or how to buy and put on a condom if they are going to have sex.

Discussions surrounding the emotional as well as the physical feelings of engaging in sex are equally important. In my practice I also discuss how girls and boys “feel” differently about sex, because I really think they do. I also teach girls that if they are going to have sex, and their partner doesn’t have a condom then they should be responsible and carry one to use. Anything that can help both educate and protect teens is important.

Open discussions only provide more opportunity for further education. I cannot think of one instance in my practice where a teen has decided to have sex because I have told them that they may buy a condom to help prevent sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy. They were going to have sex regardless, but maybe I helped them think ahead about how to take proper precautions. I can only hope so.

I don’t presume to have all of the answers, but I just felt compelled to comment on this again.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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