Sex Ed: Preventing teen pregnancy (or the birth control rap)


Sex is for procreation and for pleasure. Adolescence is a time of experimentation and risk-taking.

Young folks often find it hard to believe that it is possible to be responsible and have fun too — but it is. You owe it to yourself and your partner to learn about birth control and use it when you are sexually active.

The least effective method of all is to cross your fingers. This results in 85 per cent of women getting pregnant in one year. The most effective method is total abstinence (no intercourse ever) and not surprisingly, this gives women a zero per cent chance of becoming pregnant.

For those who do choose to be sexually active, there are a variety of ways to prevent pregnancy and protect yourself from disease.

In the past seven columns, we have covered condoms, the shot, the pill, the IUD, barriers, natural family planning and sterilization.

Make an informed decision about which will work for you and your partner. Some techniques are more or less effective than others, and each has its pros and cons.

Teen pregnancy rates have continued to increase steadily since 1987, with about half leading to live births and the other half ending in abortion or miscarriage. In the United States, where access to birth control and sexual health education is more limited, the rates of teen pregnancy are nearly double.

Why are high teen pregnancy rates not such a good thing?

Medically speaking, the health risks are greater to both baby and mother. Pregnant young women have higher rates of anemia, kidney problems, high blood pressure and depression. All of these can take their toll on a developing fetus.

At least as important is that getting pregnant in your teens usually gets in the way of your education. Without education, the chances of living a life in poverty go up dramatically. Whether or not you give your baby up for adoption, life changes in a big way.

In Canada there are more than 40,000 teen pregnancies per year. Youth living in the north have higher rates of teen pregnancy than other Canadians: while the national rate of pregnancy in young women (aged 15 to 19) is 43 per 1000, in the NWT (1997 data, so that’s us too) it was 125 per 1000.

Why are there so many unplanned pregnancies? Kids not getting the information they need is definitely part of it.

Sexual health education is about providing information in a way that gives people more power and control over their sexual well-being. It neither encourages nor discourages kids to go out and have sex. It’s about helping people make good choices.

Know and respect your body — treat it like a temple. Let’s not talk about sex in whispers.

Learn what to expect from a good relationship. Parenting is probably the most important thing you’ll ever do. Be ready and make it an active choice, rather than an “oops.”

The cross-your-fingers method is not good enough. Understand the birth control options before you need them, and know where to get help!

That’s it for birth control options. Next week we’ll start on sexually transmitted diseases, infertility, unplanned pregnancies, gay and lesbian health, sex and smoking, sexuality in disabled folks, and more.

If you have questions or comments or would like a specific topic covered, send an e-mail to nuna[email protected] or a letter to the Nunatsiaq News office.

Dr. Madeleine Cole is a physician at Baffin Regional Hospital.

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