Throwing caution to the wind is common during the teen years. Engaging in unprotected sex is particularly perilous business, as it can lead to life-changing events like an unwanted pregnancy. In 2010, 367,678 babies were born to teen girls, ages 15 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Having unprotected sex can also lead to harmful and potentially life-threatening sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
False beliefs about pregnancy are common among teen girls. Some teens don't realize you can get pregnant the first time you have sexual intercourse or they wrongly believe that having sex in a certain position can make it impossible to get pregnant. It's also a misnomer that urinating or douching after sex will wash away sperm that's entered the vagina. Other teen girls believe they can't get pregnant if their sex partner "pulls out" before ejaculating. Not only does pulling out require strong self-control, it doesn't guarantee that some sperm won't find its way into the vagina.
An estimated 25 percent of U.S. teens who engage in unprotected sex will eventually develop a sexually transmitted infection or STI like chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis, explains HealthyChildren.org, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Teen girls may contract an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes called pelvic inflammatory disease while boys may develop epididymitis which is an inflammation of the coiled tube next to the testes.
Engaging in risky sexual behaviors is only one reason teens are at a higher risk of STIs; they're simply more biologically prone to sexually-transmitted infections. The unstable cell structure in the immature cervix of an adolescent female can place a teen girl in a vulnerable position when it comes to developing STIs, notes MayoClinic.com.
A teenager who wants to wait to have sex until she is older may be dubbed a "prude" or "old-fashioned" by her peers. Teen girls and boys may feel pressure to have sex before they're ready in order to fit into the crowd. Saying no to sex may be easier said than done but, considering the potentially negative long-term consequences, may give a teen strength to stand her ground.
Teens in monogamous relationships should have a serious talk about birth control options such as oral contraceptives, contraceptive injections, patches, vaginal rings, intrauterine devices and condoms. Condoms don't guarantee that you won't develop an STI but they can significantly slash the risk.
Young people, ages 15 to 24, make up about 40 percent of new HIV or human immunodeficiency virus infections which can lead to AIDS, notes Kaiser Family Foundation. In addition, people with STIs are up to five times more likely to acquire HIV through sexual contact, adds the CDC. A surefire way for teens to avoid pregnancy or contracting a sexually transmitted disease or infection is to abstain from sexual intercourse.
- HealthyChildren.org: Sexually Transmitted Infections Prevention
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Monitoring Your Teen's Activitites
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Teen Births
- GirlsHealth.gov: The Truth About Pregnancy Prevention
- Mayo Clinic: Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Risk Factors
- Kaiser Family Foundation: The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic
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