By Melissa Unger
Education is key when it comes to sexual health and avoiding teen pregnancy. Though teen pregnancy rates in the US declined 44% and the teen birth rate declined 52% since the early 1990s, 3 in 10 girls still get pregnant by age 20. So it is not surprising teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. far outpace those of other nations, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Moreover, according to their national survey, the organization found that 4 in 10 teens say they never thought about teen pregnancy.
Today, May 7th, is the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. This day is sponsored by the not-for-profit group The National Campaign, and their aim is to focus teens’ attention on the importance of avoiding too-early pregnancy and parenthood through an interactive online quiz. The quiz can be found at www.StayTeen.org and it challenges teens to think carefully about what they might do “in the moment” through a series of “choose-your-own-adventures” type scenarios.
We caught up with Lauren Mann of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, to get some honest answers. She set the story straight from what is fact to what is fiction.
Here is a list of 10 things you might not know about teen pregnancy.
+ The Truth About Safe Sex And Safer Sex
Lauren says, “Basically, if you have sex…you can get pregnant.” She adds, “The only 100% effective way of not getting pregnant is not having sex, but if you are going to have sex, you have to use an effective, reliable form of contraception.”
+ You Can Always Say “No”
You don’t have to be a virgin to say “No” to a partner. Lauren points out, “Just because you said ‘Yes’ [to sex] before doesn’t mean that you can’t say ‘No’ now. Just because you have had sex in the past doesn’t mean that you have to have sex with every partner or every person you date in the future.”
+ Every Time Counts
So, if you’re having sex, Lauren says, “You have to use an effective, reliable form of contraception every single time — not just once, not just most of the time, [but] every single time.” She adds, “If you have sex without using any type of contraception for a year, there is an 85% chance of getting pregnant.”
+ Not Every Teen Is Doing It
Despite popular belief, Lauren says, “Not everyone [every teen] is doing it [having sex]. You may think that everyone around you is doing it, but actually less than half of teens in high school have actually had sex, which means that half of teenagers are virgins.” Lauren stresses the notion of “staying teen…[by] delay[ing] sex for as long as you can.”
+ Guys Don’t Always Want To Have Sex
Lauren says that the truth about a guy’s libido is a lot different than we think. She says, “Two out of three teen guys say that they would rather have a relationship than sex. One in five guys have said that they have been pressured by a girl to go further sexually than they wanted to.” She added, “Two out of three guys agree [they] would be okay with being in a relationship that doesn’t include sex, and more than half of sexually experienced guys would rather give up sex for a month than give up going online for a month.” She explains, “77% of teen guys say that sex can be intimating for guys among sexually active teen guys, and men, nearly half, say that they have had sex with someone and have regretted it afterwards.”
+ The Truth About Birth Control
Lauren notes that there are a lot of myths when it comes to birth control. She says, “The pill is not completely effective from the first day you start taking it.” She adds, “You have to be on a reliable form of contraception for a full month for it to start to become effective. So just because you took, like, three pills doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant; which is why, if you just started the pill or the shot, you should definitely be using a second form of contraception: a barrier method, like condoms, for the first few weeks.” As for side effects, Lauren say birth control can’t make you fat or infertile. She stresses, “There are tons of contraceptives out there. It is just about finding the right one for you. If you are uneasy about putting hormones in your body, there are kinds of barrier methods or non-hormonal methods of birth control out there. If you’re not good about remembering a pill, there are monthly types or yearly types that you don’t have to think about every day.”
+ When You Can Get Pregnant
Lauren points out the truth about getting pregnant. She says, “A lot of people think that you can’t get pregnant the first time [that you have sex] or that you can’t get pregnant during your period or you can’t get pregnant if you never had your period or you can’t pregnant if you’re standing up or if you’re in a hot tub.” She points out again, “Basically, if you have sex, any single time you have sex, you can get pregnant unless you are already pregnant.”
+ The Truth About Responsible Girls
In Lauren’s book “just because a girl is on birth control or she carries condoms, [it] doesn’t means that she is even having sex. It just means that she is smart; she is being prepared.”
+ The Truth About The Effectiveness of Contraception
Lauren notes contraception is absolutely necessary when having sex, but the effectiveness depends on you. She says, “The male condom with perfect use is 98% effective; with typical use, it is only 82% effective.” Lauren stresses that perfect use “means putting it on before you have sex.” So don’t start and then put it on, or take it off during the middle of sex. With birth control, Lauren says that with perfect use, the pill is “more than 99% effective, but with typical use only 91% effective.” She notes that perfect use includes never skipping a day and taking the pill at the same time of day every day.
+ Having A Baby Is Not The Answer
Lauren stresses having a baby does not strengthen a rocky relationship or make a partner stay in a relationship. She says, “That is not the case, a baby won’t make him [or her] stay.” She adds, “Some teens think that having a baby [means] that a baby will love you unconditionally, even if no one else does. [So] that is not a good reason to have a kid. Babies require more than love. They require money and energy and that is a 24/7, 365 yearlong commitment. It is more than just ‘This will be fun and this thing will love me forever.’”
Take The Stay Teen Quiz
How prepared are you to handle tough decision about sex? Take the quiz to find out.
It's Your (Sex) Life
Taking control of your sex life means making your own decisions — and totally owning it.