The politics around women’s healthcare and reproductive choices have been interesting as of late to say the least. We have seen Planned Parenthood vilified, and concurrently, we have seen gains in women’s access to Preventive Exams as well as the expansion of birth control coverage. Recently, the FDA approved Plan B for sale to minors over-the-counter. Although Plan B is not associated with long term medical risks, use of Plan B is not guaranteed to prevent pregnancy, and incidental birth control does not address a multitude of other unintended consequences, particularly in young men and women.
I am a mother of two young girls who at this lovely age still think that boys are gross and annoying. I know that in short order this will all change. I have given much thought as to how I will educate my daughters about their sexuality and their safety. Too often young people falsely believe that ”I won’t get pregnant from one time,” or “I won’t get herpes,” or “I’ve had the Gardisil vaccine so I won’t get HPV”. While I applaud the many changes in women’s healthcare, over-the-counter availability of Plan B to minors gives me pause about young women’s emotional and physical well-being as it relates to unplanned sexual encounters. The easy access of a simple pill can give the false illusion of being able to erase actions from the night before.
As a woman’s healthcare provider, I am an advocate for access and education, but I admit that I am concerned that Plan B may give young people a false sense of security regarding pregnancy prevention without acknowledging unintended consequences such as the emotional risks of unplanned and unprotected intercourse and the risks of STD’s. Unlike condoms, which are used at the time of sexual activity, Plan B does not offer any protection from STD’s, nor does it require forethought to action. Unfortunately, I have recently met with two teenagers who had been pressured to have unprotected intercourse and then take Plan B. Each of these young women, broke down in tears of fear and shame that saddened me greatly for them.
Now, more than ever, our daughters need to be educated on what it means to choose to be sexually active or to choose to be abstinent. More importantly, they need to be taught that they have a choice to say “No thank you” and mean it. Our daughters also need to be educated about unsafe situations, how to recognize them, and how to avoid them. A young woman who desires to be sexually active should be made to feel comfortable coming to an Ob/Gyn so that she can choose a reliable method of birth control and receive complete medical care and advice, something she won’t get from an over-the-counter package.
So what do you tell your teenagers about Plan B? First, have the discussion and discuss your value system and why that set of values is important. Second, educate them on all birth control options that are available and what they do and do not protect against. Third, encourage them to ask questions from trusted adults, to think about their choices, and to seek medical advice when it is needed.
Our team is committed to the well-being of each woman that walks through our door. To learn more about our practice visit www.capobgyn.com or call us at 512-836-2536 if you have any questions or to schedule your next appointment.