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Graduate project: Blog 4: Birth control: Protection and prevention

March 16, 2009


Topic of the week: Birth control: Protection and prevention

I was 17 when I started to research where to find birth control pills. I asked my friends and searched online for a few weeks. The search was not fun. I felt weird asking my friends, and many of them thought I was strange for even thinking about taking “the pill.” Thankfully, I trudged forth and made an appointment at the local (as in 20 miles away) health clinic…from a pay phone.

Yeah. I was damn scared. I wanted to do the right thing by protecting myself, but at the same time I didn’t want to be judged or have my parents find out. Back then, I felt like the only person on earth going through the turmoil to get birth control, but now I know many teen girls have felt this way when trying to find contraceptives.

Gracie, a teen from Georgia, says she understands why teens are embarrassed when trying to buy contraceptives. Gracie says in Georgia many stores keep their contraceptives behind a glass case.

“Sex can be a very embarrassing thing for younger teens (14-16) and it can be hard for them to work up the nerve to ask someone to unlock the stupid glass and get condoms for them.”

Many teens would probably rather risk getting pregnant than be embarrassed, says Gracie.

I can totally relate with that level of embarrassment. I know I stopped buying contraceptives for my personal stash when a police officer at a gas station tipped his hat at me one evening while I was buying condoms. Embarrassing and creepy.

Mary, a teen from Kansas, agrees with Gracie, and says she thinks birth control still isn’t widely accepted because it’s difficult for young teens to purchase. Mary says she thinks if young adults had better access to birth control, they could prevent many pregnancies.

Monica, a teen from California, says she went to a free clinic to get her birth control and doesn’t understand why teens aren’t told where to find clinics.

Along with the embarrassment of finding and buying contraceptives, many teens don’t know what contraceptive is best for their needs.

In high school, all of Gracie’s questions about health and sex were about contraceptives. She wanted to know what the most effective birth control method was, the side effects of “the pill,” the probability of getting pregnant when having sex without protection, and why birth control pills could only be bought with a prescription. She consulted the Internet and asked her mom about the answers she found.

From my point of view, it seems teens will have sex if they decide they are ready even if they don’t know about contraceptives. So, why the debate about teaching teens about contraceptives?

In fact, a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found “that abstinence only programs had no significant effect in delaying the initiation of sexual activity or in reducing the risk for teen pregnancy and STD.”

“I know that people think that when you teach kids how to safely have sex it is going to make them have sex. I don’t agree with that. I think if you are going to have sex you are going to have sex,” says Amber, a teen from Kansas.


Providing teens with contraceptive information is important. It can help prevent unwanted pregnancies. After all, the study “Adolescent pregnancy and childbearing: Levels and trends in developed countries,” in Family Planning Perspectives found that rates of teen pregnancy and teen births are higher in the U.S. than in any other industrialized country.

So, what do you think about contraceptives?

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