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Teen Sexuality

Healthy sexuality starts with a healthy self. This is true at any age, but particularly during the teenage years, when developing your identity and sense of self is an important task of development.

If you are a teen, deciding to have sex or not is probably one of the biggest decisions you will have to make. Ask yourself some important questions to make sure you’re ready, physically and emotionally. Make sure you are informed about birth control and your risks of STIs and unplanned pregnancy.

We’ve provided information on a few important topics below. Remember, your doctor is a great source of information, and can be trusted with your most personal questions and concerns, judgment-free.

  • Birth control

    Birth control is a term used to define any method or practice that is used to prevent pregnancy. There are many different types of birth control and each is different in the way it’s used, its effectiveness, its side effects, and its costs. The information provided here can help you decide what form of birth control is best for you.

    Overall, your choice of birth control should depend on factors such as a your health, frequency of sexual activity, number of partners, and desire to have children in the future. Effectiveness and failure rates of the various types of birth control are key factors, too.  Learn more about your options, as well as Emergency contraception here.

  • Sexual Abstinence

    Sexual abstinence means to refrain from sexual intercourse. This term is sometimes confused with celibacy. However, celibacy means nonparticipation with any kind of sexual activity. The practice of abstinence does not make a person asexual or celibate. Sexual feelings, desires, attractions, and romantic interests remain the same. The difference is that you remain in control over the actions associated with these feelings by consciously choosing to avoid sexual intercourse.

    Regardless of your age, there are advantages to practicing abstinence:
    • Avoid unplanned pregnancy
    • STI risk is reduced significantly
    • No anguish over a moment of indiscretion.
    • Commitment to personal or religious values
    • Increased feelings of self worth
  • Virginity

    Deciding when and with whom to have your first sexual intercourse is an intensely personal decision. It should be a thoughtful choice, and not made under pressure or for the wrong reasons.

    Most unplanned teenage pregnancies happen within the six months of the first intercourse, and more than 20% occur within the first month. These are scary statistics. Most teens, however, are better prepared and more than half are still virgins at 17 years of age.

    According to the Sexuality Education and Information Council of the United States (SEICUS):

    • 25% of 20-year-old women have still not had sexual intercourse.
    • 6.9% of men and 21% of women aged 18 to 59 had their first intercourse on their wedding night.
    • Many virgins are sexually involved but without intercourse
  • I think I'm pregnant - what to do (for teens)

    It’s important that you begin gynecologic care when you start having sex. This can be done in a physician office or a public health clinic. If you have missed a period or have other signs that you may be pregnant, consult your care provider immediately. If you don’t have one, try your school nurse, local Planned Parenthood organization or contact info-line in your area. There is an obligation for any health care person to keep this information confidential – so talk! You may feel desperate and alone, but there are alternatives for you to consider.

    Remember, your parents may be a source of support and caring. Don't rule this out because you think they won't understand or you'll "get in trouble". This may stir emotions in them, but that's not a bad thing - it's normal! Even if you don't get along sometimes or are afraid to disappoint your parents, try to talk to them.

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

    Sexually transmitted infections (once called venereal diseases) are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States today. More than 20 STDs have now been identified, and they affect more than 13 million women and men in this country each year. Health problems caused by STIs are more severe and more frequent for women. When diagnosed and treated early, almost all STIs can be treated effectively.

    Education, proactive steps and regular testing by your physician are key. It is important for all women who are sexually active to understand the risks and symptoms of STIs. Regular checkups with your physician are important, too, since many symptoms may not initially be apparent or felt.

  • The “date rape” drug

    The most common use of rohypnol (slang – roofies or GHB) is by teenagers and young adults as an alcohol extender in an attempt to create a dramatic "high" most often in combination with beer, or as a drug to incapacitate a victim before a sexual assault. It is also often used in combination with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, and alcohol. Rohypnol is a low cost drug, sold at less than $5.00 per tablet.

    Date rape and date rape drugs make drinking alcohol especially dangerous for young women. If you become too intoxicated or if a drug is added to your drink, you may pass out, fall asleep or otherwise not be able to protect yourself as you would when you are in full control of your body and mind. Women have been raped and molested in situations like this.

    Side effects of the “date rape” drug

    Rohypnol intoxication is generally associated with impaired judgment and impaired motor skills and can make a victim unable to resist a sexual attack. The combination of alcohol and Rohypnol is also particularly hazardous because together, their effects on memory and judgment are greater than the effects resulting from either taken alone.

    Effects of this medication begin within thirty minutes, peak within two hours, and can last for up to eight hours. It is commonly reported that persons who become intoxicated on a combination of alcohol and flunitrazepam have "blackouts" lasting eight to twenty-four hours following ingestion. Losing your social inhibitions is another widely reported effect of Rohypnol, when taken alone or in combination with alcohol. Adverse effects of Rohypnol use include decreased blood pressure, memory impairment, drowsiness, visual disturbances, dizziness, confusion, stomach disturbances, and urinary retention.

    Rohypnol can cause addiction or physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms include headache, muscle pain, confusion, hallucinations, and convulsions. Seizures may occur up to a week after stopping.

    Avoiding the “date rape” drug

    Here are a few suggestions for staying aware and alert:

    • Be wary about accepting drinks from anyone you don't know well or long enough to trust.
    • If you are accepting a drink, make sure it's from an unopened container and that you open it yourself.
    • Don't put your drink down and leave it unattended.
    • Notify female friends, relatives, students and coworkers about the effects of this dangerous drug.
    • If you think that you have been a victim, notify the authorities immediately.
  • Am I ready for a sexual relationship?

    Only you know the answer to this – make sure it is something you think about and measure carefully. It is truly a choice, perhaps the most important choice you’ve made in your life.

    Think about your reasons:
    • Is this your idea?
    • Do you want to fit in with a certain group?
    • Is the use of alcohol or drugs clouding your judgment?
    • Are you doing this under pressure?
    • Are you trying to prove something?
    • Are you just trying to feel close or special?
    • Are you curious?
    • Are you in love? When was the last time you felt like this?
    • Are you in control?
    Think about what this relationship means to you:
    • Do you think sex will change the relationship? How?
    • Are you expecting that sex means you’re committed to each other and either of you won’t have sex with others? Are you both clear on this?
    • How well do you know this person?
    • How well does this person know you?
    • Does this person respect you?
    • Do they treat you with kindness and caring?
    • Are they more interested in sex or learning more about you?
    • Are you ready to be a parent?
    • Are you ready to protect yourself against STD or unplanned pregnancy?
    • Are you emotionally able to handle the intensity of this relationship?
    • Will you remember this as a positive, indifferent or negative experience?
    • Are your actions in keeping with your personal, family or religious values – does that matter to you?

    Deciding to have sex or not is probably one of the biggest decisions you will have to make. Make sure you’re ready, physically and emotionally.

    Being in a relationship heightens your emotions, sometimes it is hard to tell what a healthy relationship is and what is not.  The following are early warning signs that of an unhealthy relationship that could lead to abuse:

    • Extreme jealousy and controlling behavior
    • Wants to always be alone with you and isolates you from friends and family
    • Uses force during an argument, may be verbally abusive or threatens violence
    • Unpredictable mood swings, leading up to explosive anger
    • Alcohol and drug use
    • Blames others for his problems or feelings
    • Cruel to animals or children

    If you are concerned about your relationship, talk to an adult you can trust.  Think about ways to be safe while you are deciding if this is right relationship for you.  No one deserves to be abused

    Ask a parent, or if you feel more comfortable, a physician if you have any questions at all.

  • Early bloomers

    There is no advantage in being the first among your peers to have sex. In fact, females who begin sexual activity (and intercourse) in the early teen years are more likely to:

    • have lower academic achievement
    • have lower self esteem
    • use drugs and alcohol
    • drop out of high school
    • contract a STI
    • have an unplanned pregnancy
    • risk of infertility problems in adulthood secondary to pelvic inflammatory disease.
    • risk an ectopic pregnancy

    Many girls, who get pregnant at a very young age, do so by a much older male partner. There is no equality in a sexual relationship between an adult and an adolescent. Males, who look to much younger females, are frequently missing a step in their own personal development. They may want to dominate and control their female partner, and same-aged females won’t let them have the control they want.

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