While a majority of high schools in the United States has a class devoted to health-related topics, the education on sexual health can vary widely in terms of accuracy, emphasis and effectiveness. In particular, the sexual health information provided to teenage girls can sometimes seem confusing or overwhelming. May is National Women’s Health Month, and we want to share the importance of providing accurate education and information to young women so they understand their unique health care needs.
While there are several reputable sexual education websites, we all know that teens can unintentionally be exposed to misinformation. It’s not uncommon for the media-savvy teenage, young women to use a variety of media sources to fill in the gaps; including platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. As a community of educators, clinicians and parents it is important we reach them first to educate them about appropriate sexual health topics based on factual data from reputable and credible sources.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends that sexual education start in early adolescence and that it be comprehensive, medically-accurate and age appropriate. According to the ACOG, girls should have their first gynecological visit between the ages of 13 and 15 years old.
Many young women get nervous before their first visit, and that is normal. Understanding what to expect during a first gynecologic visit might help ease some of those nerves. The first visit may just be a talk between the patient and the doctor where they provide more information about future visits, general information on how to stay healthy, or they may perform a general physical exam or an external genital exam.
Providing information regarding sexual health topics is also very important in this age group. Key topics to cover include reproductive health, contraception and prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases, as well as information regarding the importance of communication, consent and healthy sexual relationships and recognizing sexual violence.
Evidence has consistently shown that this type of education reduces the rates of sexual activity, risky sexual behaviors, sexually transmitted infections and adolescent pregnancy. Over the last 20 years, we have seen a national trend toward a marked decline in the teen birth rate which is in large part due to increased education and the use of effective contraceptive methods.
Obstetricians and gynecologists are in an optimal position to not only educate teenagers, but also their parents about everything from long acting reversible contraceptive options, to the benefits of the HPV vaccine to the dangers of online sexual predatory behavior.
When it comes to providing tools, resources, education and care for adolescent sexual health, our staff at Premier Women’s Healthcare of Delta or any of the Delta County Memorial Hospital’s (DCMH) primary care clinics are here for you and your family. To schedule an appointment with a board certified OB/GYN, call 970-874-7930.
Michelle Barhaghi, M.D., FACOG, ABOIM, ABIHM is double board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Integrative Medicine and is a physician at Premier Women’s Healthcare of Delta.