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Prevention helps teenagers avoid pregnancy

May 18, 2000
Web posted at: 4:27 PM EDT (2027 GMT)

(WebMD) -- Once a teenager becomes pregnant, there are no easy choices: Abortion, adoption or teenage parenthood all come at significant emotional, spiritual, financial and physical costs.

To reduce the toll that teen pregnancy takes on teenagers and their families, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is striving to reduce the teenage pregnancy rate by one-third between 1996 and 2005. They offer the following suggestions to teenagers, parents and communities:

  • Educate teenagers about sex, relationships, pregnancy and parenthood.

    "I wish I could have talked to my parents about sex," says teenage mom Sara, 18. "They are very religious, so when they found out I was having sex, they banned me from seeing my boyfriend for four months. We just couldn't discuss it at all."

    Whether the message is abstinence, safe sex, disease prevention or contraception, it needs to be accurate and clear. Talking about sex, sexuality, contraception and reproduction does not give teenagers the green light to have sex, as some parents fear. An open, honest dialogue can prevent misinformation and unnecessary risk-taking.

  • Offer reproductive health services for teens.

    "I wish I had used birth control now," says Cassandra, a 15-year-old mother of one. "I just thought it wouldn't happen to me."

    Let's face it, there are and probably always will be sexually active teens, and they need effective and safe birth control and reproductive care. Cassandra's message to other teens about birth control is, "Get it and use it. Don't take the risk, not even once."

  • Encourage programs that strengthen teens' bonds with family and community.

    "We couldn't talk about anything," Sara says of her communication with her parents. "I felt like I had to hide the truth from them. I wish now I could have talked to them or somebody about how I was feeling and what I was doing."

    Programs that provide parents with tools to communicate with their teenagers and communities that support a positive teen-friendly environment help break through the barriers that sometimes exist between teens and adults.

  • Provide youth development and school-to-career programs.

    "School dropouts have too much time on their hands," says Mary E. Dearry, R.N.C., and leader of a program for teenage moms called Kente at Georgetown Women's Health Clinic in Philadelphia. "All that unsupervised time often leads to a teen pregnancy."

    Creating engaging opportunities for kids to develop their skills and talents -- especially teenagers in unstable families or communities -- gives them something to aspire to, something to look forward to and something to constructively fill their time.

    © 2000 Healtheon/WebMD. All rights reserved.

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