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Crisis pregnancy ‘can be avoided if teens wait for sex’
Irish Examiner 18th May 2006
By Evelyn Ring

ENCOURAGING teen-agers to wait until they feel ready to have sex is regarded as the best way to avoid a crisis pregnancy, a conference heard yesterday. Research shows that levels of regret, non-use of contraception and risk of conceiving under 18 years are considerably higher among young people who begin sex before 16.

Former director of the National Centre for HIV and Sexual Health in Britain, Jo Adams, said women were more likely than men to say they wished they waited longer before having their first sexual encounter. Ms Adams, now an independent consultant on sexual health education, said a quarter of girls and nearly a third of boys in Britain are under 16 years of age when they first have sex. There is no national study in Ireland on when Irish teenagers first have sex, but, based on a selection of small studies, it is believed that up to a third will have their first sexual experience between 13 and 19 years.

Ms Adams, a keynote speaker at a conference on young people and sexual health organised by the national Youth Council of Ireland and crisis Pregnancy Agency, said regret was a major issue for young people. Research showed that almost 70% of young men and 85% of young women who had sex when they were aged 13 and 14 wished they had waited.

“I think the levels of disappointment and regret are sad for us to see and obliges us to do something,” she said. She believed, however, that a programme advocating abstinence was the wrong way to go. Research in the US had found that almost 90% of young people who take a virginity pledge will have sex before they marry. And, she pointed out, in communities where large numbers of young people take abstinence pledges, sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates were higher. But, she stressed, as well as actively supporting young people to choose to delay having sex there must an excellent level of sexual health education, advice and contraception provision.

Ms Adams also blamed the media for the rush by young people to have sex. Because of the way sex was portrayed in the media, there was a feeling that everybody was at it. “That is not exactly the truth but that is very often the message that comes across and young people do not want to feel left out,” she said. “We have to say to them very clearly that most people of your age are not having sex and that it is fine to wait until you are ready and until it feels right for you.” Ms Adams is in the process of rolling out training courses across Britain supported by the Government’s teenage pregnancy unit. Click here for irishexaminer.com stories before this date