Sue Scheff: Morning After Pill and Parenting Tips

“There will be girls who use the ‘morning after pill’ in probably a very casual way. And not really take into account what that means.”

– Nancy McGarrah, Ph.D., Psychologist

Some experts worry that once the morning after, or ‘Plan B’ pill is available to 17 year old kids teen sexual activity will increase.

“Teenagers that will choose to have sex that weren’t having sex before,” says Psychologist Nancy McGarrah, “because they know that the ultimate fear of pregnancy isn’t an ultimate fear anymore.”

Some teenagers agree.

“They’ll know in the back of their minds ‘okay, this happens, I’ll just take the pill tomorrow,’” says 18-year-old Lauren Moskowitz.

“If you knew that you could stop fertilization or stop the sperm from coming, of course you’re going to do it, because there’s a greater chance that you know, you’re not going to get pregnant,” adds 19-year-old Angel Goldring. “So I think it’ll increase sexual activity if the pill is introduced.”

The morning after pill raises another concern – sexually transmitted diseases.

“They’ll just realize that they could have sex without a condom and have no worries about it,” says 18-year-old Patrick Sullivan.

“I still hear a lot of kids ignoring the whole concern about STDs,” says Dr. McGarrah. “They’re not, you know, taking it seriously. They’re worried about pregnancy still. That’s what is the big bugaboo.”

“I really believe that most of the teenagers are going to think about pregnancy before they think about diseases or stuff like that,” says 18-year-old Kristopher Roberts.

Experts say if the morning after pill is approved for over-the-counter sale, parents will need to talk to their teens about sexuality now more than ever.

“Also, [parents will need to] tell them what they believe, in terms of their moral position,” says Dr. McGarrah.

The most important point, says McGarrah, is “that sexually transmitted diseases are real things and they do exist and no birth control or morning after pill is going to protect you from that.”

Tips for Parents

The most reliable way to prevent unwanted pregnancies is not by using the morning after pill; it’s by abstaining from intercourse in the first place. Open communication and accurate information from parents increase the chance that teens will postpone sex. Experts at the American Medical Association have developed the following list to help parents talk to their children.

Teens need accurate information and decision-making skills to help protect them from pressure to have sex, unintended pregnancy and HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
If talking with your teen about sex is difficult for you, admit it. Keep a sense of humor.

Use TV, movies, articles and real-life situations, such as a friend's pregnancy, to begin talking about sex.

Share your values regarding sex. If you believe a person should abstain from sex until marriage, say so.

Don't assume that if your teen asks questions about sex, he or she is necessarily thinking about having sex.

Ask your teen what he or she wants to know about sex. If you don't know an answer, admit it. Find answers with your teen in books, other resources, or from your health care provider.
Reassure your teen that not everyone is having sex and that it is okay to be a virgin. The decision to become sexually active is too important to be based on what other people think or do.
Your first talk with your teen about sex should not be your last. Talk with your teen about sex on an ongoing basis. Let your teen know that you are always willing to talk about any question or concern he or she may have about sex.

In addition, previous studies have shown the following.

Typically, parents begin talking with their children about sex during the children's preteen years. Some parents, however, do not begin these discussions until their children are thirteen-years-old, and some parents never discuss sexuality with their children.

Mothers often assume the primary responsibility for sexual instruction of both their male and female adolescents. Daughters are more often the recipients of sexual instruction than are sons.
The predominant content of conversations with adolescents revolved around sexual issues and related moral views of right and wrong. Studies noted that these later conversations were important in the transmission of values and morals.

Children perceive their parents as communicating less about sex than the parents believe they communicated.

Although parents are a major source of sexual information, peers also play a unique role in the acquisition and transmission of information and values about sexuality. When parents are the major source of sexual information for adolescents, adolescents' sexual behavior is less risky than when friends are the main source of sexual information.

Centers for Disease Control
Advocates for Youth Campaign
Journal of Marriage and Family

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