pregnancy ‘can be avoided if teens wait for sex’
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
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