Q & A with Dr. Paquette

I'm thinking about having sex with my boyfriend, and I don't want to get pregnant. Which birth control method will keep me from getting pregnant? 

The bottom line is -- there is no guaranteed way to avoid pregnancy other than abstinence. I have delivered babies for girls who were using every type of birth control. The pill is potentially 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, but the average adult user gets 94.6% effectiveness. Teen use is even less effective because the pill needs to be taken at about the same time every day and most teens use the pill intermittently, often forgetting to take it every day. The result is an increased risk of pregnancy. Although the shots are more effective, they again require you get them on time. Condoms are the least effective form of birth control and frequently are misused or break. The longer teens use condoms, the less likely they are to continue to using them every time. Many teens quit using the shots and pills because of side effects. These include: weight gain, depression, acne, and irregular bleeding. In addition, the pill doesn't always work by preventing pregnancy. About 4-11% of the time it interferes with implantation (when the baby tries to implant in the uterus). Implantation happens 5-9 days after fertilization. The pill blocks this implantation by thinning the lining of the womb, consequently aborting the baby.

I'm 16 and just found out I'm pregnant. My boyfriend and I only had sex once! I haven't told my boyfriend yet, and I most definitely don't want to tell my parents. I love my boyfriend and I don't want to lose him! What should I do?

You don't need to make a sudden decision. Talk to your boyfriend--he has a right to know he is a father. In addition, talk to your parents. Most teens say, "But they'll kill me if they find out!" Include a trusted adult like your doctor, teacher, or youth group leader when meeting with your parents. Many teens decide to parent their child. This decision requires a lot of thought about what it means to be responsible for another person. Some teens choose adoption. This is a selfless choice for the teen who doesn't feel ready to be a parent. It requires being ready to cope with the loss of that child, but it gives the comfort of knowing you have given that child and the adoptive family an incredible gift.

Abortion is often thought of as a quick fix. No one will have to know, and you can go on with your life as if nothing ever happened. If this sounds too good to be true-- it is. Abortion is a painful option. Women have described it to me as the most awful thing they have ever been through. Women often block out the memory of it and regret having aborted their baby. Not only do these women have lives haunted by their abortion, but they also have an increased risk of future infertility, miscarriage, and giving birth prematurely. There is also an increased risk of breast cancer in women who have an abortion. Trying to hide the pregnancy with abortion only leaves you alone to cope with all the depression, pain, and regret that follow. If you think you're pregnant and need help, call 1-800-395-4357 or visit www.optionline.orgIf you have had an abortion, there is hope and help. Contact Abortion Recovery International at 866-469-7326 or visit www.abortionrecovery.org. Click on the Care Directory to find help in your area. 

I've heard about this Plan B pill that you can take if you forget to use birth control. Is it safe to use? What does it do?

Plan B is called emergency contraceptive and consists of a large dose of birth control hormones. It can be taken up to 72 hours after sex, but the chance of pregnancy goes up dramatically during the last 12 hours of this window. It does prevent pregnancy if you haven't ovulated yet. However, if you have or are about to ovulate, it also blocks the conceived embryo from implanting and the baby is then aborted. Side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and heavy bleeding. Repeated use can cause menstrual complications. 

I just went to the doctor and found out I have herpes. I'm so scared, What are the side effects of this disease?

You're not alone. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) have reached epidemic proportions. About 9 million young people are diagnosed with a new STD every year.1 Most teens think it safe to have sex with a limited number of people, but an estimated 50% of sexually active youth get an STD by age 25.2 Herpes is a disease of recurrent blisters that break out on your genitals throughout the rest of your life. There are treatments to help reduce the frequency and severity of these blisters, but there is no cure. One in six people over the age 12 are infected with herpes.3 It is most contagious when you are about to break out with blisters, so you may not know about it. This makes it difficult to stop from spreading. Condoms don't prevent transmission because herpes can still spread through skin-to-skin contact. Oral sex can lead to the spread of herpes and other STDs to the face, mouth and throat. I have dealt with many married couples that have to cope with STDs that one of them acquired in premarital sex. It is most devastating when it affects their children through birth or inutero infection. Take this opportunity to recommit to purity and avoid further complications from premarital sex.

1 Centers for Disease Control. Accessed 8/5/09.| 2 Kaiser Family Foundation. September 2006.| 3 The Medical Institute for Sexual Health. July 2009.|
Reprinted with permission from Human Life Alliance www.humanlife.org