At the Annex, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about pregnancy prevention and that is because it is an important issue for the young people we work with. While it’s a year round focus for us, this time of year is special because it is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. It’s a time to celebrate the strides that have occurred in creating programming, services, and birth control options that better meet the needs of young people, but it is also a time to get real about the challenges that still exist for many of the people in our community.
An unexpected, unplanned pregnancy can be really stressful and challenging for a young person and parenting can lead to some costly complications in their lives. There are also challenges leading up to that point, which range from intrapersonal to societal. One’s values as well self-efficacy to advocate for one’s needs in relationships, sexual encounters, and clinical settings are just as important as larger factors. Many young people face significant barriers to accessing sexual health care like concerns about confidentiality, misinformation about condoms and birth control, and health care providers that are not youth friendly. And, let’s face it: we live in a society that stigmatizes sexuality, especially adolescent sexuality, while it often perpetuates harmful stereotypes, models, and misinformation.
Despite all that, there are so many young people in our community who are taking control of their lives and navigating these challenges with intelligence, commitment, and skill that is nothing if not awesome. As unplanned pregnancy has a huge impact on young people and our community, we need to think of this a community challenge. All of us can have an important role in supporting young people’s choices about pregnancy and whether or not to have children. The positive involvement of parents, caregivers, and other caring adults can be an important protective factor in teen sexual health. There are many things, big and small, that you can do like:
- Starting a conversation with a young person in your life about how a pregnancy would impact their life, and listen to what they have to say without judgment. Share your values and leave the door open for more conversation in the future.
- Educating yourself. The Annex facilitates workshops for parents and caregivers of teens on how to foster open, honest communication about sexuality topics.
- Be aware of community resources that you can connect teens with.
- Supporting programs, organizations, and policies that focus on partnering with young people in having the knowledge, skills, and access to resource they need to be in control of their sexual health. Let people know that this is important to you and why!