Just as a pediatrician might ask your child if he wears a bike helmet and knows how to swim, expect your adolescent’s doctor to ask about sex.
It’s a difficult subject for some parents to tackle. But for primary care providers, a discussion about sexual and reproductive health is a must, said Dr. James Fitzgibbon, director of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Sexually active teens are at risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancies, largely because they are poor judges of risk. People ages 15-24 account for half of new STD cases reported yearly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 41 percent of high school students have had sex, the latest CDC youth survey showed, and 43 percent of them didn’t use a condom during the most recent encounter.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that providers offer a safe and confidential environment for adolescents to talk about sex and receive information and health services.
A pediatrician should ask your teen about sexual activity – and assess their risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Dr. Fitzgibbon said physicians are urged to screen adolescents for these risks routinely, providing counseling and contraception if needed. “Primary care offices should be the most important healthcare site to screen for sexually transmitted infections and provide guidance for prevention,” he explained.
Teens often don’t plan ahead for birth control, and they also underestimate the chances and ramifications of contracting an STD.
State laws allow minors a right to privacy with regard to obtaining contraception. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatric offices have a policy addressing confidential services – and providers should discuss the policy with parents and teens.
Even when teens receive confidential care, pediatricians encourage parents and teens to communicate about sexual and reproductive health issues.