Teens and sex can be a risky combination. Find out how to talk to your teen about abstinence and contraception. Few parents want to face the idea that their teens are having sex — but research shows that many teens are sexually active by high school, potentially putting themselves at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections STIs. When it comes to teens and sex, the key is discussing the importance of contraception before sexual activity begins. Talk about safe sex with your teen even if he or she identifies as gay.
He or she may still engage in heterosexual activities, and is at risk of STIs regardless of the partner with whom he or she engages in sexual activity. When broaching the topic of teens and sex, it's never too late to talk about abstinence.
Whether you feel strongly that sex before marriage is wrong or you simply want your teen to postpone sex until he or she is more mature, explain your feelings to your teen. If you share the reasons behind your beliefs, your teen may be more likely to understand and adopt your values. Also ask your teen to think about his or her own values and hopes for the future — and consider how sex might affect them. Explain that:. Understanding birth control methods is an important life skill for everyone.
Whether your teen decides to have sex or wait, make sure your teen knows how to prevent pregnancy and protect himself or herself from sexually transmitted infections. Stress the importance of always using condoms during sex, even if your teen is using a second form of contraception. Various prescription contraceptives can help prevent teen pregnancy.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourages adolescents to consider long-acting reversible contraception first — including intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants — as these options are highly effective with little thought required. Your teen will need to see a doctor to get a prescription for these types of contraceptives.
Before scheduling the appointment, find out if she would prefer to see a female doctor. The doctor will also conduct a pelvic exam if your teen chooses an intrauterine contraception method. Make sure your teen understands that prescription birth control isn't a replacement for condoms. Prescription birth control helps prevent pregnancy, but it doesn't offer protection from sexually transmitted infections.
Explain to your teen that it's always a good idea to make a decision about birth control before having sex. However, emergency contraception — such as the morning-after pill levonorgestrel Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Take Action or ulipristal ella — can help prevent pregnancy if your teen doesn't plan ahead or contraception fails. Make sure your teen understands that emergency contraception must be started as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse.
The sooner the pills are taken, the more likely they are to be effective, though they may be taken up to 5 days hours after unprotected intercourse. If use of contraception goes against your values, you might consider talking to your teen about natural family planning, which involves abstaining from sex during a woman's most fertile days.
Don't be afraid that talking to your teen about contraception will encourage him or her to have sex. Your teen is likely curious about sex and contraception, whether or not you bring up the topic.
By being open and honest, you can help your teen make informed decisions and act more responsibly when he or she decides to have sex — whether it's now or years in the future. If you're having trouble talking to your teen about contraception, ask your teen's doctor for help. He or she may offer advice on how to talk to your teen and accurately answer questions about contraception. Teens may lack the maturity to properly and consistently use certain types of contraception. If your teen is thinking about using prescription birth control, make sure to explain the following to help her select a method:.
If your teen is considering becoming sexually active, you might also provide practical tips — such as keeping condoms in a wallet or purse. Explain to your teen that use of alcohol and other drugs may affect his or her judgment and increase the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Talking about sex and contraception with your teen isn't easy. However, your guidance can help your teen make informed choices that help protect his or her sexual health. Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission.
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Sign up now. Teens and sex: Protecting your teen's sexual health Teens and sex can be a risky combination. By Mayo Clinic Staff. Show references Talking with your teens about sex: Going beyond "the talk. Accessed May 4, Forcier F. Adolescent sexuality. Chacko MR. Contraception: Overview of issues specific to adolescents. Fortenberry JD. Sexually transmitted infections: Overview of issues specific to adolescents.
Widman L, et al. Parent-adolescent sexual communication and adolescent safer sex behavior: A meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics. Potter J, et al. Predictors of parental knowledge of adolescent sexual experience: United States, Preventive Medicine Reports.
Ashcraft AM, et al. Talking to parents about adolescent sexuality. Pediatric Clinics of North America. How you can prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kaunitz A. Emergency contraception. Committee Opinion No. Natural family planning. Laughlin-Tomasso SK expert opinion. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
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