May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

Once again if it’s May, it must be National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, and it’s important that our youth are aware of options available for preventing pregnancy.

LaVerne Bishop of Hale ‘Opio Kauai stated that the best practices for reducing teen pregnancy are:

1. Having goals for the future — obtaining education after high school and planning a fulfilling career. When women have a goal, they know that supporting a child and being tied down would either delay or stop the goal from happening.

2. Developing negotiation skills for delaying the initiation of sex. In other words, if a woman isn’t ready to have sex, she needs to feel comfortable in saying so to her partner. If there is mutual respect, the female’s wishes will be honored. If she is not respected, she needs to feel empowered enough to stand up to her date (No means NO!, and it is rape otherwise).

3. Learning how to use condoms to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. (Now there are condoms for both men and women. They are available at Malama Pono.)

4. Developing a skill-set for decision making. We always are faced with choices, and some of them are extremely important. Starting a family is one of those major decisions that affects a woman for her entire life.

My 34-year-old niece just had her first child. She has a successful career, a good stable relationship with her husband, owns her own home, and really wanted this baby. When I was visiting her she said, “I had absolutely no idea how hard and intensive it would be to have a baby!” I think that most mothers would feel that way. It’s not even imaginable until it happens, and you are faced with the care of a non-verbal, non-mobile, incontinent child screaming because their little tummies hurt as they adjust to food and how to process it, or they’re hungry, or have a balled up piece of fabric pressing against a part of their bodies that is uncomfortable, or need a diaper change, or are exhausted, and don’t know how to relax, or don’t feel secure with so much space around their bodies, and need to be held close … or something else!

It’s tough stuff, and babies have no appreciation for your needs of getting a good night sleep, or having a little free time. And if you’re a teen, you are still growing your own body, and trying to figure your own life out. Wait before you think that it will be nice to have a little baby to cuddle. They grow up and have tantrums, and break things, and don’t listen to you, and cost a lot of money to raise. Wait. And yes, most mothers feel that it was all worth it in the end. But wait.

Advocates for Youth has studied what programs actually work in helping teens learn the best practices for reducing teen pregnancy. They found that, “Effective programs include school sex education programs, community-based programs, and clinic-based programs which reach a variety of audiences including young people at all school levels and in many contexts.”

“Sex education in the U.S. schools still relies on abstinence and leaves many students unprepared and in the dark, according to new research from the Guttmacher Institute that examines sex education from 2006-2013. Forty-three percent of adolescent females and 57 percent of adolescent males did not receive information about birth control before they had sex for the first time.”

That’s how babies are made! So much for abstinence, as much as parents would prefer it.

I know that parents are very concerned about their children having intercourse, and many think that if they teach their children about birth control it is making a statement that they approve of them having sex. That’s not true.

Parents can be very clear about how they would like for their children to wait until they are more mature before having sexual relations with another, and making sure that it is what they really want. And also providing them with the means of having safe sex in case they believe they are ready and choose to have sex. Wouldn’t you want them to know how to not get pregnant, or STIs? HIV and herpes last a lifetime. Talk to your child.

Turning to community resources, I’m happy to report that there is an organization on Kauai that does help teens prevent pregnancy and more. It’s Malma Pono, and they have recently moved to suite #205 and #207 upstairs of the HMSA building a block away from Kukui Grove Cinema at 4366 Kukui Grove St., Lihue. They are open M-F 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. STI testing is M-F 10-3:30, with an extension to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

I went there and talked to Melisse, who was ever so helpful. They offer many brochures available on many topics including their Women’s Wellness Program, gender issues, STD testing services, and even how to have a conversation about condoms. including phrases you could learn to say. Using a condom not only prevents pregnancy, it prevents sexually transmitted infections.

Condoms are also available there, and they are free.

They have a Women’s Wellness Center for women 14 and up. You must show a valid ID, and a school ID is valid. Your parents don’t have to be with you. You must call for an appointment at 246-9588. Here’s the catch. Currently the clinic is open only one day a week from 4-7 with Dr. Fujiyoshi. That day changes from week to week. You have to have an appointment to get birth control pills. They give one free cycle’s worth at a time, or they can write you a prescription. There are pills under $30/month. You could also get a birth control vaginal ring, or a birth control patch. The birth control consultation visit, a pregnancy test, and pap smear (cancer check) are offered at a sliding scale fee.

Don’t be shy about educating or protecting yourself. You may be nervous because it is your first time going, but Melisse and Shawna, the other woman to make an appointment with, do this all the time, and want to help. Then you can teach your friends. Or all go together. Be smart.

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Hale ‘Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org

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