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Parents are most comfortable with daughters using birth control pills

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

When it comes to preventing sexually transmitted diseases, the only effective form of contraceptive is the condom. Because of this, some would assume that most parents would be most comfortable with their daughters having access to condoms rather than other types of contraception, which may protect against unplanned pregnancy, but not STDs. However, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, that is not the case.

Researchers found that parents are most accepting of their daughters using birth control pills than other forms of contraception, including condoms, implants and the intrauterine device. This is a problem for health officials, considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that teens between the ages of 15 and 19 fall within the age group of individuals most likely to contract an STD. This is one of the reasons why sexually active individuals in this population need access to STD testing services.

A matter of prevention
To come to their conclusions, researchers examined 260 parents or guardians that looked after girls between the ages of 12 and 17. They recruited the individuals from a clinical database from San Francisco General Hospital and five Kaiser Northern California clinics.

The scientists surveyed these individuals and asked them their thoughts regarding STDs, how likely they believed their daughters were to have sex, and their own sexual health when they were teens. Then, the scientists asked, "If your teen's doctor found out your daughter was having sex, is it acceptable or unacceptable to you for the doctor to provide the following methods to your teen confidentially?"

The researchers discovered that 59 percent of parents had the highest acceptability for oral birth control pills, while 51 percent said that condoms were the most acceptable method of birth control for their daughters.

"Considering the fact that condoms are our only method that protects these teenagers from sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, and because the condom seems less invasive than other forms of contraception, we were surprised they weren't accepted by a larger percentage," Lauren Hartman, M.D., lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Lack of understanding
One possibility for why parents feel more comfortable with the birth control pill could be that girls often use this form of contraception to combat other health problems, such as menstrual pain. However, these individuals need to understand that condoms have two important roles - to prevent unplanned pregnancy and protect against STDs. When it comes to sex, birth control pills can only prevent pregnancy. Furthermore, WebMD states that if women forget to regularly take their birth control pills, they may not be effective at curtailing pregnancy, but condoms are over 97 percent effective if they are used correctly.

Parents and healthcare providers need to educate young people on the importance of practicing safer sex and regularly utilizing STD testing services if they are sexually active. These services are especially important for teens that are only using the birth control pill, since they have a higher risk of unknowingly having an STD compared to those that are using condoms. Parents who are concerned that their child may be practicing unsafe sex should make sure they have access to STD testing kits and services.

"Parents are integral to their adolescents' health and their support of their teen's access to confidential health services is an important part of the health partnership," concluded Hartman.

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