By Amy Kramer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
All of Leah's problems came to a head on this week's episode of "Teen Mom 2": The West Virginian is caring for her three kids on her own because her husband travels extensively for work, her marriage to Jeremy is crumbling and her custody issues with her ex-husband Corey are still unsettled. And L’s mom traces it all back to being a teen mother, saying, “I knew when you got pregnant at such a young age how hard it was going to be.”
It seems Leah agrees because she responds by saying that when her own daughters turn 13, she's putting them on birth control -- "whether they like it or not."
Thirteen might seem young –- and it certainly is to be having sex. Only 11% of girls in the U.S. have sex before age 15. But being prepared for sex is important, and parents and teens need to be able to talk about these issues at every age. In fact, teens who say they have good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to start having sex later, and more likely to use protection when they do. A majority of teens – 68% – say the primary reason why teens don’t use birth control or protection is because they’re afraid their parents will find out. So it makes sense that having open lines of communication about these issues is important.
Seventeen is the average for when people start having sex, but by that age, more than one-third of girls have been on birth control. Pregnancy prevention isn’t the only reason: Some people need birth control to regulate their periods or help with hormone imbalances or other health issues. There’s no shame in being on birth control for any reason. In fact, in a recent survey of adults, 68% said that if they found out their teenager was having sex, they would “hope they talk to me so I can help ensure they are using birth control.” Leah would probably agree.
Obviously the best, most foolproof form of birth control is not having sex at all. And the younger someone is, the more sense that makes. But being informed is powerful and important. Knowing about the options before the heat of the moment leads to better decision-making and healthier sex lives.
Want to learn more about your options? Check out Itsyoursexlife.com for lots of good information, and go to Bedsider.org to find birth control to fit your body and life. And be sure to keep watching "Teen Mom 2" every Thursday at 10/9c.