STIs and birth control
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are caused by infections that pass from one person to another during sexual contact. STIs are extremely common in the U.S., especially in sexually active people under the age of 30. In fact, 25 percent of the 15 million new STIs diagnosed each year in the U.S. are found in children ages 15 to 19 years, and another 42 percent are ages 20 to 24.
Sexually transmitted infections often do not produce obvious symptoms. They spread easily. And they can have a lifelong impact on your child’s health. Symptoms of STIs in young women can include: vaginal discharge that is heavier than normal, green, bloody, or foul smelling; lower abdominal pain; painful urination; vaginal itching; rash or sores on the labia or pubic area; swollen lymph nodes in the groin; pain with insertion of tampons or sexual intercourse. Some STIs can cause fever, headaches and flu-like symptoms. Remember, many STIs don’t cause any noticeable symptoms at all! That’s why girls and women who have sexual contact must see a doctor regularly to check for STIs.
The good news is that your daughter can learn to protect herself against STIs. Abstinence from sexual contact is 100 percent effective in avoiding STIs, preventing pregnancy, and keeping young people focused on school and extracurricular activities. In addition to supporting personal values or religious beliefs about early sexual experiences, abstinence is an opportunity for your child to meet the right person.
High school surveys show that more than half of teens never have sex. And the majority of teens do not think it’s embarrassing to be a virgin. Most teens who say they’ve had sex also say they wish they had waited, and would have welcomed a strong abstinence message from their parents and from society. Talk openly with your daughter about the many health and emotional benefits of waiting to have sex.
For those teens who choose to have sex, practicing “safer sex” can decrease their chances of becoming infected. “Safer sex” is defined as always using a latex condom for intercourse, keeping body fluids out of the other partner’s body (e.g. using Sheer Glyde or a dental dam to make oral sex safer), avoiding sex when either partner has a sore caused by an STI, and being open with her a partner about activities that feel safe and unsafe.
Regular testing for STIs promotes early detection and treatment. Teens who have symptoms of an STI should be tested as soon as possible, and avoid any sexual contact until they know their test results. Your daughter should also be tested for STIs if she’s had intercourse without a condom, dental dam or other barrier. In the absence of any STI symptoms (remember, most don’t have symptoms), we recommend annual health screening exams including STI testing. Please help your daughter understand that we at Eugene Pediatric Associates are here to help educate, protect, and treat her for potential sexually transmitted infections.
Birth control can be used to help protect young women against both STIs and pregnancy. The best birth control is abstinence. For those teens who choose to have sex, a wide variety of birth control methods are available to prevent STIs and pregnancy. Young women should insist that their male partner use a latex condom 100 percent of the time, which is crucial to decrease the risk of STIs and pregnancy. Help your daughter learn about additional methods to further decrease her risk of pregnancy, such as birth control pills, rings, patches or intrauterine devices (IUDs). Encourage her to make an appointment with us at Eugene Pediatric Associates to discuss the wide array of options available to protect her from STIs and pregnancy.