(Remember the 1983 teen movie, Risky Business, where Tom Cruise's teenaged character invites a call girl into his life while his parents leave on a trip?)
A very typical clinic scenario:
I knock and enter to see my next patient, only to find a 13 year old young girl sitting alone on the chair in the exam room.
Me: Why, hello there! I’m Dr. Jill. How may I help you today?
Ms. Teen: Your nurse made me this appointment and told me to come in.
Me: And why did she ask you to come in?
Ms. Teen: I don’t know. I just came to get the morning-after-pill yesterday, and she told me to come in to talk to you so that I can get birth control, I guess.
Me: Are you interested in birth control?
Ms. Teen: Yeah, I guess.
Me: How long have you been sexually active?
Ms. Teen: One month.
Me: Did you use protection?
Ms. Teen: No.
Me: Please be very careful. I have seen 12 year old girls pregnant in this clinic after having sex once.
Ms. Teen (appearing genuinely appalled): Really?!
Me: Yes. All it takes is once.
I am no longer shocked at the fact that there is a 13 year old girl sitting in front of me who is having sex. I’ve seen it time and time again in my clinic, but it still never fails to sadden me a little. I worry about these young girls who take such great risks with their lives and allow peer pressure to take over. It is a reality, no doubt about it – children are having sex, whether we like it or not. Here are the statistics:
• 2% of women are sexually active before the age of 11
• 7% by age 13
• 28% by age 15
• 70% by the 12th grade
As parents, it’s important to talk to your kids about sex, get to know their friends, and take an interest in their lives in order to give them guidance and prevent risky behaviors. You can start talking to them about sex early; in fact, the earlier the better. But provide only age-appropriate information. For instance, for your toddlers, you can teach the “vagina” or “penis” when reviewing body parts. For your older kids, you can ask them if they know how Cousin Betty’s baby will be born. For the pre-teens, you can discuss how hormone changes affect the way their bodies will change (for example, deeper voices, body odor, etc). For the teens, review common myths. One common myth amongst the teens, for instance, is that pregnancy is impossible with the “first time.” If you don’t talk to your kids, they will hear misinformation from other unreliable sources, either through their friends or the media. Most ninth graders have a mandatory Sex Education class, however, that is too late. Studies show that kids who feel comfortable talking to their parents about sex have less risky behaviors.
I then have a very long conversation with the patient that includes the topics of abstinence, peer pressure, how to say “no,” sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy prevention, and all birth control options. Unfortunately, she passes on the option of abstinence and decides on the pill with condoms for her choice of birth control prevention.
Me: Do you have any other questions for me?
Ms. Teen: Yeah, I think so. Will it be a problem to, like, take the pill if I drink alcohol?