Thinking about having sex may be stressful and scary for many teens because it may mean having to think about how to prevent an unintended pregnancy
. You may already know about birth control
, or you many not have a clue about your contraceptive options
. So much information is available that it may be hard to know where to begin and who to turn to. Here are a few tips on how to begin learning about birth control:
Determine Your Feelings
Whether it is your first kiss, touching, oral sex or going all the way, sexual activity is a powerful experience. You need to make choices about how far you are willing to go as well as what responsibility you have to protect yourself and your partner from STDs or pregnancy. It may seem that everyone is “doing it.” This is not true; even if it were, what others are doing shouldn’t matter. You are the only one who can decide if this is the right time. Try to asses your own attitudes toward sex and determine what you really know. If you don’t know much about pregnancy and STDs, or how to prevent them, you probably aren't ready for sex. Also, having sex when you are feeling unsure or uncomfortable about your decision is never the right time.
Understand Your Body
Photo Reprinted with Permission from DELC
Before you begin to have sex, it is so important that you understand what is happening in your body as well as gain some insight about what to expect during your first sexual encounter. Although many teenagers falsely believe that they will not get pregnant, it only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg. Do you know when a girl is most fertile
? Part of learning about the female body is gaining an understanding about conception and the monthly reproductive cycle.
Be Mature, Brave and Smart
Photo: Stockbyte / Getty Images
There is no denying, it can be embarrassing and intimidating to ask questions about sex and birth control. This may especially be the case if you live in a conservative community or family. It’s completely normal to have questions about sex, and it is important to have your questions answered with correct, unbiased information. Learning about what sex may be like and how to prevent pregnancy and STDs is responsible and smart. Understanding what contributes to teen pregnancy and teenage sexual decisions can also help to keep teen pregnancy rates down. The more you know, the better the decisions you make will be.
No matter what your sexual plans are, it’s vital to have accurate information about sex. Maybe you’re just interested in learning about sex, or you may be planning to have sex in the near future. You may wish to practice abstinence
and plan to put off sex until you’re married. Maybe you’re thinking that there is no way that you could get pregnant, yet circumstances may change. Most teens who become pregnant do so by accident. Even if you plan to be abstinent, it is wise to have a back-up plan (just in case). As they say, vows of abstinence break more often than condoms
do. Plus, having correct information about contraception will, most likely, be something you’ll need sometime in the future.
Talk to Adults You Can Trust
There is probably a good chance that your friends have a lot to say about this topic. Your friends can be excellent sources of support and information, yet when it comes to something as important and life-changing as sex, it’s wise that you also get information from a trusted adult who has already been down this road. Even if your friends have already had sex, an adult can share his/her perspective from the present looking back on the past; he/she will have more clarity and insight into this behavior, so an adult’s perspective can really help you in your decision whether to “do it” now or to wait.
Choosing a Trusted Adult
When choosing an adult to talk to, first, try talking to your parents. If you absolutely cannot talk to one of your parents, perhaps you have an older sibling, an aunt or uncle, or a close family friend. These people will most likely have your best interest at heart and feel some responsibility for helping you grow up healthy and safe. They may even be more likely to know what has worked for other members in your family with respect to birth control (maybe your mother couldn’t use hormonal contraception or your brother may have been allergic to the latex in condoms).
Know Your Health History
Reprinted with permission from A. Klinger
For most people
, birth control does not pose major health risks. Yet, it is important to make sure that a problem, such as a blood-clotting disorder or high blood pressure
, does not run in your family. In order to use many birth control methods, you will need to make an appointment with a doctor to obtain a prescription. Your doctor will need a complete health profile to help you decide which method may be right for you. If you are not honest with the doctor about your health, serious side effects may occur with some contraceptive methods. For example, smoking may increase your chances of developing a life-threatening blood clot if you are taking certain hormonal birth control methods.
Have a Discussion with a Medical Professional, Too
Unfortunately, maybe due to religious reasons
or complete embarrassment, you may not be able to discuss sexual topics with your family. Even if you did speak to your parents, there is a possibility that they provided you with misinformation about sex and/or birth control (contraceptive methods are constantly changing, so there may be more available options that your parents don’t even know about). This is why it is important that you have a discussion with a person who has a medical background in addition.
Choosing a Healthcare Professional to Talk To
Photo: Keith Brofsky / Getty Images
You can talk to a doctor
, nurse or health educator (at a place like Planned Parenthood
or a women’s health clinic). These people are most likely to have up-to-date information and can answer specific questions about each birth control method. They can even teach you how to correctly use
contraception. In order to get the Pill
(or other hormonal methods), you’ll need a doctor’s visit, which will likely include a pelvic exam, blood pressure screening and health review. Depending on where you live, you may need parental consent for this exam as well as to get prescription birth control. You can ask the doctor if he/she will be able to keep your information confidential, or if he/she is allowed, under law, to share it with your parents.
Talk to Your Partner
Once you have begun considering your options, it's time to talk with your partner. Talking about birth control may be difficult, but it is important (if you are in a serious relationship) to make these decisions together. Also, if you are feeling that you can't talk to your partner about contraception, STDs and sexual histories, then you should rethink if you are ready for a sexual relationship with this person. Having sex is a big deal, as you risk the chance of becoming pregnant or contracting an STD every time you engage in it. If you truly feel that you can't talk about sex with trusted adults and your partner, this may be a good sign that you're not ready to be having sex.
Know the Truth from All the Myths
Be critical when finding out information, especially if you're getting your facts online or from other teens. When it comes to the Internet, a good rule of thumb is to get your birth control and reproductive health information from:
- Sites with medical review boards approving the information, such as About.com Health
- Health clinics
- University sites
- Government health office sites
Though these aren’t the only places with good information, you’re more likely to find accurate information from these sites than from a stranger on a message board. Also, watch out for websites from groups
that may be trying to trick you into thinking that you've found unbiased information as these sites may have hidden agendas.