By Jessie L., a University of Rochester graduate, interested in Psychology.
Sex is everywhere. It’s on TV, in the movies and in magazines, and because of all this, we teens can’t help but start to wonder about whether we should be having sex. Not to mention that our horrmones are raging, too. With all the sex messages popping up all over the place it seems like it’s NBD. But the truth is that sex IS a big deal.
Okay, take a deep breath, and let’s jump in.
For starters, sex is a very intimate act between two people, which can make even the most confident person feel vulnerable. In addition, no matter how well you know your partner or how comfortable you feel with one another, sex comes with some risks: pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It can also affect you emotionally and how you feel about your body. Learning how to negotiate safer sex is SO important and takes practice (like talking out loud in front of a mirror or role playing a conversation with a friend or peer educator); so is saying NO when you are not ready or don’t want to have sex. It’s your body and you are in control. Honor that.
Of course, the most effective way to avoid getting pregnant or getting an STD is to not have sex at all. That being said, abstinence is not always the choice teens make (about 42% of high school teens report having had sex… that means almost 60% are still virgins). There are lots of good things about waiting. Being safe and protecting yourself is key when you are ready have sex. Really really think about it and check out the info on StayTeen.org – the teen website created by the National Campaign to Prevent Pregnancy.
What are STDs?
STDs are diseases caused by infections that are passed from person to person during some sort of sexual contact, which includes vaginal as well as anal and oral sex (LOL, squirming yet?)
There are at least 25 different kinds of STDs. Each STD ranges in symptoms; some not even causing any symptoms at all. That’s pretty scary. And just for the record, STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and STDs are the same thing. I know that always confused me, so thought it was worth clearing up.
Like I said, there are many different ways to protect yourself when you have sex. Some methods protect against both pregnancy and STDs, while others may just protect you from one or the other. It’s important to know the difference.
Remember that when having sex, no method is 100% effective. In addition, a protection method that works for one person may not work for another. That’s why it’s so great that there are so many different types available. Here are just some of the different protection methods you can choose from with your doctor:
- The Pill: One of the most common forms of contraception, the pill is taken at the same time everyday. The pill contains the homones estrogen and progestin and stops ovulation. (Check out the PBS interactive tool on how the pill works in the female body.) The pill can also help with mentrual cramps by regulating periods and may help control acne …but it doesn’t protect against STDs.
- Other Hormonal Methods: Since the pill was invented quite a few other hormonal options have been made available to women who may find taking a daily pill too inconvenient or hard to remember. These include a patch, a shot, a ring, a sponge or an IUD (t-shaped device that gets inserted). Again, these methods prevent pregnancy when used properly …but do not prevent STDs.
- Cervical Cap and Diaphragm: These methods are rubber or latext domes that are inserted into the vagina a few hours before having sex to block sperm from entering the cervix. They are used with a spermicidal cream or jelly to kill sperrm cells before they swim upstream to try and reach an egg. These methods do not protect against STDs.
- Female Condoms: This a barrier method that blocks male sperm from entering the vaginal canal and cervix. It is a polyurathane pouch inserted into the woman’s vagina. It can prevent an STD infection when used correctly. It can also be used along with a hormonal birth control method to prevent pregnancy .
- Male Condoms: Also know as a “rubber”, a male condom is latext tube rolled onto the guy’s erect penis. It is a barrier method and helps prevents STDs and pregnancy when used correctly. It can also be used along with a hormonal birth control method used by a female parnter to prevent pregnancy.
Remember, these are just some of the protection methods available. If you feel you are ready to have sex, it is important to speak with a doctor, nurse or parent about it and to figure out which method is right for you. Of course, you must learn how to use the method before you choose to have sex. Knowledge is power.
Last reviewed Nov 24., 2014.