Module 2: perspectives on working with young people: facilitator's guide

5.3 A youth health issue in focus: young people, sex and pregnancy

Page last updated: 2004

Young people, sex and pregnancy – the myths
Sexual behaviour of young people
Teenage pregnancy
Encouraging contraception use among sexually active young people
Overhead transparency

Young people, sex and pregnancy – the myths

There are lots of myths about sexual intercourse and contraception. These may be a result of societal ignorance, ideals, morals and historical beliefs.

Task - writing exercise, group activity

Divide learners into three small groups. Each group is given one of the following questions and asked to record their responses on butcher's paper.

Question - Write down as many myths that you can think of about how a girl can avoid falling pregnant after sexual intercourse.

Question - Write down as many myths that you can think of about contraception.

Question - Write down as many myths as you can think of about sexual health and relationships.

Task - answers

Becoming pregnant

Some common myths include:

A girl can avoid falling pregnant after sexual intercourse when:
  • the guy and girl are both virgins
  • the girl is having her period
  • the guy pulls out before he ejaculates or if he doesn't go all the way in
  • they have sex in a pool or a hot tub
  • the girl douches with coca cola after sex
  • the girl douches with vinegar after sex
  • both partners don't orgasm at the same time
  • the girl jumps up and down after sex (to get all the sperm out)
  • the girl pushes really hard on her belly button after sex
  • the girl takes a shower after sex
  • the girl is on top during sex
  • the girl takes aspirin and drinks a coke after sex; or
  • the girl makes herself sneeze for 15 minutes after sex.
Top of page

Contraception

Some common myths include:
  • having contraception readily available makes you a slut (girls) or makes it look like you are expecting sex (boys)
  • if you use the contraceptive (birth control) pill you will have trouble having kids later
  • it is ok to use your friend or sister's birth control pills
  • you can use plastic wrap if you don't have a condom
  • you only take birth control pills when you are going to have sex
  • girls can get cancer if they are on the pill.

Sexual health and relationships

Some common myths include:
  • sex equals love and commitment
  • people cannot get sexually transmitted diseases from having oral sex
  • if you use a tampon (before you have had sex), you are not a virgin anymore
  • a guy/girl will know if you are a virgin; or
  • if you stop having sex with a guy once he's aroused, he will be in serious pain.

Sexual behaviour of young people

Young people face an excessive risk of unintended pregnancy and STDs because of their sexual behaviour, lack of information or little or no access to sexual and reproductive health services. Studies show, for instance, that women delay about one year on average between starting sexual activity and first using contraception (WHO, 1997).

Teenage pregnancy

The actual number of teenage pregnancies in Australia declined from 13,373 in 1996 to 12,983 in 1999. The proportion of teenage pregnancies was 5.1 percent nationally. (Nassar & Sullivan, 2001).

Indigenous women begin childbearing at younger ages, have higher birth rates in their teenage years and early 20s, and tend to have more children than non- Indigenous women. More than one in five (22 percent) Indigenous mothers were under the age of 20 (Nassar & Sullivan, 2001).

Consequences of teenage pregnancy

  • Teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of high school than girls who delay childbearing (ACOG, 1998).

  • Education cut short, a teenage mother may lack job skills, making it hard for her to find and keep a job.

  • Teenage mothers are more likely to live in poverty than women who delay childbearing, and nearly 75 percent of all unmarried teen mothers go on welfare within five years of the birth of their first child (Annie Casey Foundation, 1999).

  • Young parents lack good parenting skills and social supports.

  • Children whose mothers were aged 17 or younger when they were born tend to have more school difficulties and poorer health than children whose mothers were 20-21 when they were born (Child Trends Inc., 1996).
Top of page

Encouraging contraception use among sexually active young people

It is important that frontline workers educate and inform young people of all the facts in regard to sexual activities and behaviours regardless of whether they are of legal age or under the legal age of consent.
Discuss the following issues with learners:
  • Many sexually active young people use contraception inconsistently or not at all. Some 31 percent of teenage girls were completely unprotected the last time they had sex, and 33 percent of sexually active young people who do use contraception use it inconsistently (Hutchins, 2000).

  • Contraception use at first sex has increased. In 1998 65 percent of females aged 15-19 reported using any method of contraception the first time they had sex. By 1995, 76 percent of this group reported using contraception at first sex (Terry & Manlove, 2000).

  • Contraception use at most recent sex has decreased. In 1988 77 percent of females aged 15-19 used contraception the most recent time they had sex. By 1995, only 69 percent reported using contraception at most recent sex (Terry & Manlove, 2000).

  • Decisions about contraception happen within relationships. More than one-half of young people (51.7 percent) surveyed recently said that one of the main reasons that they did not use birth control is because their partners did not want to (NCPTP, 2000).

  • Teaching young people about contraception does not encourage them to have sex. Research is clear on this point; sex education does not increase sexual activity. In fact, in some cases, teaching young people about contraception seems to delay their sexual activity. Teaching young people the facts about contraception is not necessarily inconsistent with a strong abstinence message (Hutchins, 2000).

  • Access to contraception is necessary but not sufficient. Restricting sexually active young people from having access to contraception would be a mistake, but simply making contraception methods available to young people is not enough to motivate them to protect themselves. Research suggests that making contraceptives available to young people in schools does not increase their sexual activity, but it also does not seem to markedly increase sexually active young people's use of contraception either (Hutchins, 2000).

  • One of the most significant reasons for not using contraception is that young people are much more likely to have unplanned and unprotected sex when they are intoxicated after using alcohol or drugs. More than one-half of young people (53.3 percent) say the main reason they do not use contraception is because of drinking or using drugs (NCPTP, 2000).

  • The younger the person, the less likely he or she will be to use contraception or to use it effectively (Moore et al. 1997). Of particular concern is that while sexual activity is down (or has levelled off) among most young people, it has risen slightly among those younger than 15, the group least likely to use contraception (Hutchins, 2000).

Overhead transparency

  • Many sexually active young people use contraception inconsistently or not at all
  • Decisions about contraception happen within relationships.
  • Teaching young people about contraception does not make them have sex
  • Access to contraception is necessary but not sufficient
  • Young people are much more likely to have unplanned and unprotected sex when they are intoxicated after using alcohol or drugs
  • The younger the person, the less likely he or she will be to use contraception or to use it effectively.