Thanks to changes in family dynamics, relationships and media influences, the rate of teenage pregnancy have increased manifold over the past few years. This has become a cause of concern, as teenage pregnancy is not only associated with several social, financial and emotional problems, but it also has health risks associated with it for the mother as well as for the baby. So, it is important to take various precautions to avoid teen pregnancy. Whether you are a teenager or a worried parent, you need to take several steps to ensure that you or your teen doesn’t experience a teenage pregnancy. Studies have found that teenagers who have good relationship with their parents and teens that know and embrace the issues of sexuality are less likely to experience a pregnancy.
9 precautions to avoid teenage pregnancy
1. Never give in to peer pressure
We know that as a teen you want to be part of a social circle and you may feel left behind if you don’t have a boyfriend at a certain age, or if you haven’t had sex with your boyfriend. You may have heard about your friends or acquaintances talk about having sex and even though you may not feel right about doing it, you want to do it because everyone else seems to be doing it. But don’t give in to peer pressure. Just because every friend of yours has a boyfriend or is having sex, doesn’t mean that you need to have sex to gain their acceptance or be a part of their group. Remember, everyone has different development cycles, both physically and mentally and therefore, you are not in a race with anybody. There is a possibility that your friends would either regret their choices or they, in fact, are lying. So, never give in to peer pressure. Have sex only when you really feel prepared for it.
2. Stand up for yourself
If you don’t feel comfortable in getting physically intimate with your boyfriend, or you feel that you are being forced to get physical, then stand up for yourself and say no. Although, it may seem difficult to say no to someone that you really like or love, but you will have to learn to refuse. Also, if your boyfriend really likes you or loves you, he will understand your situation and respect your choices. This should not just be applicable for being intimate, but it should also be applied to using protection while having sex. Stand up for yourself and ask your boyfriend to use a condom. This is the only way to avoid pregnancy if you are having sex with your boyfriend. Also, its better to leave a relationship where your partner doesn’t accept your choices rather than staying in the relationship and making yourself feel stupid and helpless.
3. Using protection
Using protection is the long-term strategy that will not just help you to prevent teenage pregnancy but will also protect you from contracting any sexually transmitted diseases. So, it is better to talk about different contraceptive choices with your partner. It will require some simple lifestyle changes but it can be implemented easily. You can choose among condoms, control pills or spermicide. It would be good to have proper knowledge about these protection methods, so you must visit a doctor to check for your best options and learn about different kinds of measures before you take a decision. Never ever be persuaded to having unprotected sex. Also, don’t fall prey to ‘contraceptive’ methods that don’t really work. These methods include having sex based on the menstrual pattern that is having sex when you are least fertile. But this method is unreliable because you can become pregnant at any point of your cycle and it is ineffective during teenage years.
4. Eliminate the chance factor
If by any chance you had sex and neither of you used protection or the protection wasn’t effective, then you should leave anything to chance. In such cases, you must opt for morning pill or an after sex contraceptive to ensure that you don’t get pregnant. Such pills can be taken within three days of intercourse, but taking it sooner is better. But remember, this is not a birth control method. These medicines should only be taken as an emergency aid and not as a regular contraceptive method because of their long-term side effects. So, use it as a short-term strategy.
5. Don’t date a guy significantly older than you or a girl significantly younger to you
Teenage pregnancy is most common in couples wherein the guy is significantly older than the girl. This is because younger girls are easily attracted to older guys who may have money or appealing cars. In such situations, the power differences between you and your partner can lead to some risky situations. For instance, if a guy is significantly older than you, then he can force you to indulge in an intercourse even if you don’t want it. In fact, talking a stand against an older guy can be difficult. Saying no can also be very difficult and if the guy isn’t ready to use protection, then you may be forced to comply to his choices. So, make it a long-term strategy that you won’t date a guy who is more than two years elder to you. Even guys should make such commitments and not date younger girls to avoid teenage pregnancy and its responsibilities at an early age.
6. Talk to your children about physical intimacy and be specific
If you are parent to a teenager, then you must talk to her/him regarding physical intimacy. Remember, teenagers have a lot of questions about sex, physical intimacy and relationships that need to be answered. Although, they may go to their peers for answers, yet you should make it a point that you bridge communication gaps and sort all their queries so that they don’t have to rely on their instincts or they don’t have the urge to experiment unnecessarily. Age appropriate conversation with kids about relationships and intimacy is essential. You can refer to several books and videos that can provide you detailed information about what and how you should discuss these issues. Communicate and share your experiences with your teenagers regarding issues like, ‘How do I know if it is love’, ‘Will sex bring me closer to my partner’ or ‘How long should I wait before having sex.’ The answers to these questions will help your teen avoid teenage pregnancy. This long-term strategy needs major lifestyle changes as it requires you to be an approachable parent with whom kids can discuss their problems and who can guide them about problems related to sex and teenage pregnancy.
7. Devise options that are more attractive then early pregnancy and parenthood
Believe it or not, but media today has considerable influence on the mind of teenagers. With so many celebrities having teenage pregnancies and with so many movies and television shows depicting teenage pregnancy as something remarkable, your teens may be drawn to have a baby and start a family at a very tender age. So, as a parent, you must show your teenagers that sex, pregnancy and parenthood must be delayed till the right age and that there is a brighter future ahead. Help them set meaningful goals in their lives, talk to them about these goals and help them reach those goals. Find constructive ways to help your teen understand the value of education. As a precaution, help your teen know that how becoming pregnant or causing pregnancy can bring a full stop to their life plans. For instance, tell them that if they have to raise a child, they will be unable to go to college. So, focusing on the brighter future can help your teens delay sex and pregnancy.
8. Discourage serial dating
Discourage your teen from dating frequently and at an early age. Steady dating before the age of 16 will only spell trouble. So, make sure that you open about the idea of dating before the kid decides to date someone. Also, as a parent you must know the friends of your teen and their families too. This is because friends have considerable influence on your child and his/her choices. So, you can have a talk with your child’s friends’ families to establish common goals and rules.
9. Help your child take a stand
As parents, you must come forward and help your child take decisions. You must know about your child’s girlfriend or boyfriend and supervise their meetings. Have curfew timings and discuss it with your child and their partner. At the same time, you must note the behaviours and activities of your teen’s boyfriend. Note for any signs of abuse, whether physical or emotional, as abuse from boyfriend is one of the major reasons behind teen pregnancy. If your teen is undergoing any kind of abuse, then you must help her to take a stand and protect her. Help the teen to get out of the relationship and seek professional help.
These measures can help teenagers as well as parents to avoid teen pregnancy. But if somehow, you realize that there is a chance that you might be pregnant, then you must have a pregnancy test as soon as possible. If you’re a teen, talk to your parents or other trusted family member about this. Remember, knowledge about pregnancy at early stages can be helpful as you have more options to deal with the situation. For instance, you can decide whether you wish to abort the baby or want to get it adopted or raise it yourself.