Teens Ask, We Answer - FAQ
How do girls get pregnant?
A man and a woman can conceive a baby when a sperm from a man joins up with an egg from a woman. Sperm are produced inside a man's testicles and ejaculated when he is sexually aroused. After a woman starts having her period, her body may release an egg every month (ovulation). If sperm are released inside a woman's vagina or even near her vagina, it can make its way into the woman's body and travel from the vagina into the uterus and fallopian tubes. When the sperm and the egg join in the fallopian tube, the fertilized egg travels to the uterus and attaches itself to the wall of the uterus where a baby will grow for approximately nine months.
Can I get pregnant the first time I have sex?
Yes. Once a girl starts producing eggs, she can become pregnant if she has sex.
What is an STD and how do you get one?
STD stands for Sexually Transmitted Disease. These are contagious diseases that are passed from one person to another during sexual activity (i.e. oral, vaginal, anal intercourse, and genital to genital contact without penetration). STDs are caused by protozoa, bacteria, or viruses. Many STDs such as herpes and HIV cannot be cured.
Don't condoms prevent pregnancy and STDs?
If you are sexually active, you should wear a condom consistently and correctly with every act of vaginal, oral or anal sex. While not 100% effective, when condoms are used consistently & correctly, there is evidence of a reduction of STD transmission including HIV. They are less effective in preventing STDs transmitted by skin-to-skin contact (HPV, HSV, and syphilis). With typical use condoms work to reduce your risk of pregnancy by about 82%. This means that with typical use about 18 out of 100 users will get pregnant in a year. Remember condoms are not 100% effective, but they DO decrease the risk, so, consistent and correct condom use is of utmost importance.*
When is it okay to have sex?
The best time to have sex is when you are an adult in a loving, committed, mutually faithful relationship with another adult person. And, when you are physically, emotionally, and financially prepared to handle all the outcomes of a sexual relationship, such as having a child(ren). Delaying sex until later in life will save you from worrying about unintended pregnancy, STDs, and emotional consequences of having sex before you’re ready.
How can I tell my boyfriend/girlfriend that I don't want to have sex?
It is a good idea to be honest from the very start and let your expectations for the relationship be known upfront. The ability to state your feelings is the key to open communication about the things that really matter to you, like not having sex right now. This is also important when sticking to your prevention plan on how to avoid being in situations that can easily lead to sex. If your partner is unwilling to honor your wishes to remain abstinent, you may choose to end the relationship right now. Respect for each other's wishes is what relationships should be built upon. If that is not there, find someone else to be with who agrees with your standards and respects you. Be secure in knowing what is best for you and don't compromise that for anyone!
How do I know if someone has an STD?
There is no "fool proof" way to know if someone has an STD. Many STDs do not show symptoms you can see at all or until months and even years later. A person may not be aware that they have a disease and are spreading it to others unknowingly.*
What do I do if I think I may have an STD?
If you suspect that you may have an STD, you should stop having sex to avoid spreading the disease to others. Then you should go see your healthcare professional (or to a health clinic) and ask to be tested for STDs. Your doctor will determine treatment if needed. Look at our STD chart. If you are sexually active, you should get tested for STDs even if you use condoms. Diseases such as HPV and herpes can be spread even when using condoms.*
Are you saying that sex is bad?
No way! Sex is not bad, but it is an adult activity with serious responsibilities attached to it. Having sex as a teen can have some negative effects on your emotional well-being as well as your physical health. Sex with someone who is committed to you for the rest of your life is a wonderful thing and is meant to be enjoyed. Bottom line is that sex is best saved to avoid problems that come from having sex before you’re ready.
Is there such a thing as "safe sex" (also referred to as "safer sex" or "protected sex")?
You may often hear people say “safe sex” when talking about condoms and contraception. However, you should not get the impression that condoms make sex safe. While there are several methods of birth control that can greatly reduce the risks of pregnancy, condoms and other contraceptives are not 100% effective in preventing either pregnancy or STDs. Condoms do reduce the risk of acquiring an STD when used consistently and correctly every time. Some STDs are spread because a condom does not cover the entire genital area that can transmit STDs. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In addition, consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including diseases transmitted by genital secretions, and to a lesser degree, genital ulcer diseases when the infected area or site of potential exposure is protected. Condom use may reduce the risk for genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and HPV-associated diseases, e.g., genital warts and cervical cancer. If you are sexually active, it is very important for you to see a doctor to be tested for STDs. [Find a clinic]
What are "risky behaviors?"
Risky behaviors are activities that can greatly increase the chance of a person being harmed. Five common risky behaviors for adolescents have been identified by The Center for Disease Control (CDC): tobacco, drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence. Involvement in any of these behaviors can often lead to involvement in the others with hard lessons learned and possible life changing results.
Am I at risk for an STD?
Any person that has vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse is at risk for an STD. Additionally, some STDs can be spread by skin to skin contact.
Is there a vaccination for STDs?
There is a vaccine for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a virus that is spread through genital contact. There are high-risk and low-risk strains. High risk strains can sometimes lead to cervical cancer, and are different from the low-risk strains that can sometimes lead to genital warts. Most types of HPV infections do not lead to cervical cancer. The approved vaccines are Gardasil and Cervarix and are available for males and females ages 9-26.
I’ve heard about the Gardasil vaccine. Do I need it?
There are two approved vaccines for HPV, Gardasil and Cervarix. These vaccines are recommended for females between the ages 9-26 and also FDA approved for males. You will have the greatest protection from HPV if you receive them before becoming sexually active. The Gardasil vaccine will protect you against the 4 most common strains that can cause both genital warts and cervical cancer whereas Cervarix will protect you from the two strains that cause cervical cancer.
When should I go to the gynecologist?
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommend that adolescent girls see a gynecologist for the first time when they are between the ages of 13 and 15 years. The visit will allow you to get to know your healthcare provider and have your questions answered. It will likely NOT include a pelvic exam. You should also visit your gynecologist if you are sexually active to be checked for stds and discuss contraception., or if you are considering becoming sexually active. Also, see a gynecologist if you are having menstrual problems or symptoms such as genital pain, itching, or abnormal discharge. Warning Signs
Is my media diet unhealthy?
On average, teens spend >7 hours a day using media. Parents often worry about the quantity and quality of media usage. Health effects have been studied about the effect of media on violence/aggression, sexual behavior, obesity, brain development and learning, and sexual harassment. More research is needed on longitudinal effects, but sufficient data exists to warrant both concern and increased action. (Kaiser Family Foundation 2010)
Are there laws about minors having sex? What are the consequences?
Yes, there are laws in Texas about minors engaging in sexual intercourse, which includes oral, anal and vaginal sex, as well as sexual contact (touching of breasts, anus, or genitals with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desire). In Texas, there are serious consequences for teen sex which can be life-long. In Texas, the age of consent is 17. Any person who is younger than 17 cannot legally consent to a sexual relationship; therefore, it is a crime to engage in such activity.
Why do some girls get pregnant even if they use birth control?
There are different types of birth control methods. The most effective are the Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) including intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants. LARCS are considered to be more than 99% effective. Other hormonal methods include the birth control pill, injection, ring, and patch. These methods are considered to be 91-94% effective. In other words 6-9 people out of 100 will get pregnant when using these methods correctly. Effectiveness is influenced by consistent and correct use of these methods, frequency of intercourse, age, and regularity of menstrual cycles. And, remember, hormonal birth control offers no protection from STDs. Latex condoms (or polyurethane, if allergic to latex) reduce the risk of transmission of STDs and are considered 82% effective in preventing pregnancy.
Hatcher RA, Trussell J, Nelson AL, Cates W, Stewart FH, Kowal D, Policar MS. Contraceptive Technology: Twentieth Revised Edition. New York NY: Ardent Media, 2011. http://www.contraceptivetechnology.org/CTFailureTable.pdf