05 July 2005

Contraception vital for teens

The first sexual experience is unplanned for every third boy and every fourth girl, raising questions about the suitability of modern birth-control methods.

The first sexual experience is unplanned for every third boy and every fourth girl, raising questions about the suitability and effectiveness of modern birth-control methods, says a study by the Cologne-based Federal Centre for Health Education.

Condoms the contraception of choice
Officials from the centre said that condoms are the favoured form for 66 percent of young people.

If a condom is used properly, it has a double effect - preventing pregnancy and protecting against sexually transmitted diseases.

But gynaecologist Christian Albring, from Hanover, advises that additional security in the form of the pill should be used. He says that accidents can happen with the condom, particularly when used by inexperienced couples.

The pill uses hormones to prevent the female egg from being released. Most specialists agree that, if it is taken correctly, it is the best method of birth control.

Pill's effectiveness can be compromised
Ina Graff, a sexual educationalist at the Pro Familia organisation in Frankfurt, warns however that the effectiveness of the pill can be reduced if girls vomit or take laxatives.

She advises younger girls, especially 13-year-olds, not to take the pill. She explains that it can stop bone growth during puberty.

Other birth-control methods include chemical means such as pessaries, tablets or creams. They are designed to kill off semen cells or prevent their progress. Graff says they should be used only in conjunction with a diaphragm.

The soft, round rubber cap of the diaphragm has a diameter of between seven and eight centimetres. Before intercourse, it should be smeared with semen-killing gel and slid into the vagina.

Pro Familia's Ruth Eichmann says practice is needed to use the diaphragm properly and adds that, correctly used, it is a reliable method of contraception.

Spiral tolerated well by younger girls
Younger girls tend to tolerate the use of another method, the T-woman spiral, Eichmann says.

The spiral prevents impregnated eggs from collecting in the womb. Spirals are placed in the womb by the doctor for between three and five years.

A common alternative - the three-month injection - works like a high dose of the gestagen hormone.

Eichmann says that it should only be administered as an exception, such as where the pill has side effects or causes eating disturbances.

Often, menstrual bleeding does not take place and, because of an oestrogen deficit, the danger exists of later bone weaknesses.

Eichmann adds that female bones are completely mature only by the age of 25.

Withdrawal method least reliable
The specialists believe that the contraception method known as coitus interruptus - withdrawal - is the most unreliable method of birth control. This is because even before ejaculation, semen cells are able to reach the vagina.

Albring says the morning-after pill is the ultimate last-ditch form of contraception and should only be used in extreme cases, like when the condom bursts. The sooner that is taken after intercourse, the safer it is.

Contraception remains a theme which girls talk about more freely than boys. But girls should not shrink from discussing the issue with their boyfriends, Graff emphasises. – (Sapa-DPA)


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