May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, Mississippi has the second highest teen birth rate in the nation.
Just 38% of teen girls who have a child before age 18 get a high school diploma, and often it means permanent underemployment and a new cycle of early parenthood for your child when he or she becomes a teen [Source: MSDH].
Becoming a parent before you’re ready, especially when you’re still a teenager, can mean a harder life for you and your child. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re ready and prepared when you make the decision to have a baby. Women who choose to become pregnant are apt to be better prepared emotionally and financially for the demands of pregnancy and parenthood.
We’ve rounded up some of our most frequently asked questions about pregnancy prevention and knowing when you are ready to have a child.
“Could I get a prescription for birth control as easily as walking into a clinic and asking for one?”
In Mississippi, minors can get a prescription for birth control without a parent’s permission under one or more of the following situations. If they
- are married
- are a parent
- received a referral from a specified professional (e.g. a physician, member of the clergy, etc.)
The federal law allows for women to seek services for family planning and testing for sexually transmitted infections if they are 13 years or older. The problem for young women is that if they do not want their parents to know that they are sexually active, your insurance will send home an explanation of benefits that will tell the parent that their daughter was seen in the clinic but will not tell the parents what the visit was for. If there is not good communication between the adults and the child, things could get messy!
You can be tested for pregnancy at your local health department. Testing is private and does not require parental consent.
Clinics called “Title X clinics” provide confidential sexual and reproductive health care to both teens and adults. Title X clinics offer many services, including prescriptions for the Pill, pregnancy option counseling, and testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and infections, including HIV.
- If you go to a Title X clinic, your appointment will be confidential, including your billing and your records.
- These clinics charge on what’s called a sliding-scale fee basis, which means they help you pay what you can afford, and you can pay in cash. If you pay for your visit by using your family’s health insurance, then your parents are likely to see the bill when it arrives in the mail.
You want to find a clinic that is youth friendly. The website Advocates for Youth has lots of information about teen rights and youth friendly services.
“I really want to talk to my parents about birth control, but I’m so nervous about it. What should I do?”
High five for including your parents in this conversation and for thinking ahead! Talking about birth control may seem scary, but parents often end up being relieved that you started the conversation. Using birth control is mature and responsible and so is talking with your parents about it.
While sharing with your parents is encouraged, it’s okay if you want to keep some stuff private. They may ask you if you’re having sex and you should be honest with them if you can. It’s their job to help you stay safe and happy, which is why they want to know details about your life. But if you feel like you can’t tell your parents you’re having sex, you can say, “I want to go on birth control, just to be safe.” You could also talk about the other benefits of birth control. Some forms of birth control help with things like lighter periods or clearing up acne.
If your parents get upset, tell them that you know they care about you and you trust their advice, so that’s why you came to them. You can also admit that this isn’t the easiest talk to have. Remind them that protecting yourself against STDs and pregnancy is really important, and you want their support.
“I’m 17, engaged, and would like to start my own family. Are there any family planning programs out there for teens like me?”
Today, most health care providers offer preconception care. These appointments look at the overall health of women and try to correct any health problems before she gets pregnant. For example, if she is underweight or overweight, diet counseling might begin to help her get to her best weight before getting pregnant.
You don’t say how old your fiancé is or if you are in a financial position to begin a family, but these factors need to be considered also. Parenthood can be joyful but is not without stress. Teen parents need a strong support system to help them be successful in those early years.
“Two days ago my boyfriend and I had unprotected sex. It was my first time and I was too afraid to ask about protection. I thought he should know what he was doing. He never pulled out BUT he told me it wasn’t far enough in and that I shouldn’t worry. Also, he said I should take a bath. I’m not sure that does anything. I insisted he get tested for any STIs prior to any encounter, so I suppose I’m good in that area. I’m extremely concerned about pregnancy. How soon can I take a test?”
If you are old enough to engage in sex, you are old enough to insist on using protection! Your partner knows less about sex than you and his advice was all wrong. With accurate information about sex and health, you can make healthier and more informed decisions in the future, not only for the benefit of your own body, but for the benefit of your relationships and your community. It’s also important to remember to discuss boundaries before you end up in the heat of the moment, where it’s tough to make decisions.
Please make an appointment with your care provider so that you can get the information you need to be safe not only from an STI but also from an unintended pregnancy.
When it comes to making an important decision like having a baby, it’s important to have resources you can trust. You should be prepared with all of the resources you need beforehand so that you can have factual information at the tip of your fingers whenever you need.
Here are some good resources:.
- Fact Not Fiction: Ask the Expert, Sex Myths, and a Clinic Finder
- Telehealth Clinics in Mississippi
- Power to Decide
At Fact Not Fiction, we want everyone to have the right information, regardless of your age, gender, sexuality, or whether or not you’re sexually active. Whatever you do, with whomever, don’t do it in the dark. And ALWAYS make sure it’s done with consent.