I have asked this question to teenagers in my office before: “What do you call a woman who doesn’t use birth control and is sexually active?”
Their answers are interesting. My favorite is “Stupid.”
My answer is “Mommy.”
There seems to be a disconnect in teenager’s minds between sex and pregnancy. A recent article from the Wall Street Journal by Katherine Hobson (http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2012/01/19/why-didnt-teen-moms-use-birth-control/?mod=WSJBlog) lists some of the reasons that this age group continues to have unintended pregnancies. The U.S. has one of the highest teen birth rates of developed countries.
Half of teen moms with unintended pregnancies were using birth control. That’s scary. Birth control pills, IUD, injections, patches, rings (highly effective), condoms (moderately effective) and less effective methods. Some of these require teaching and interaction with health care professionals. In my experience, some teens have difficulties learning to use some of these methods.
What concerns me more is that about half of these moms weren’t using any form of contraception at the time of conception. Say what? They had lots of interesting excuses.
· I didn’t think I could get pregnant at that time.
· Partner didn’t want to use birth control
· I didn’t intend to get pregnant, but didn’t mind
· Had trouble getting contraception
· Had side effects
· Thought they or partner were sterile
What to do?
We argue about sex education in schools. It certainly doesn’t sound like we are doing a very good job at home. Abstinence education doesn’t seem to be working very well, either. It’s a good idea to discuss women being in control of our own bodies and delaying sexual activity as long as possible. A child is a life-long commitment.
Women fought long and hard for the right for access to birth control information. Now it’s time to let us use it, disperse it, pay for it out of insurance or public funding, and let young women have the right to determine when it’s time to bear children.
Political opinion courtesy of this author, who grew up in them there radical 1960s, when “barefoot and pregnant” was a normal state for many women.