MAYVILLE - Across New York and throughout the nation, May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, a community effort to raise awareness about teen pregnancy and the need for effective, comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention programs.
More than 400,000 teenage girls give birth in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Chautauqua County Health Department is dedicated to generating awareness for teens and their parents on early sexual activity. In addition to the possible resulting pregnancy other issues teens should be aware of are the need for HIV/AIDS testing, Human Paploma Virus (HPV) vaccinations, STD testing, family planning, birth control methods, relationships and parenting.
Unplanned teen pregnancy is an important public health and social issue. In the United States, 31 percent of teenage girls get pregnant at least once before age 20, and nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned and unintended. Teen moms and their babies face increased risks to their health as well as decreased opportunity to build a future. The March of Dimes has provided the following facts about teen pregnancy:
More than 750,000 teenagers become pregnant each year, and about 445,000 give birth.
About 1 in 4 teen mothers under age 18 have a second baby within 2 years after the birth of their first baby.
Teen mothers are more likely than mothers over age 20 to give birth prematurely (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy). Babies born prematurely face an increased risk of newborn health problems, long-term disabilities and even death.
Having reviewed research about parental influences on children's sexual behavior and consulted with many experts, including teens and parents themselves, the National Campaign offers tips for parents to help their children avoid teen pregnancy. In abbreviated form, here are a few of these tips:
Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes-communicating with your children about sex, love, and relationships is often more successful when you are certain in your own mind about these issues.
Talk with your children early and often about sex, and be specific! Initiate the conversation and make sure it is a dialogue, not a monologue.
Supervise and monitor your children by establishing rules, curfews, and standards of expected behavior, preferably through an open process of family discussion.
Know your children's friends and their families; welcome your children's friends into your home and talk to them openly.
Discourage early, frequent, and steady dating. Group activities among young people are fine, but allowing teens to begin steady, one-on-one dating much before age 16 can lead to trouble.
Take a strong stand against your daughter dating a boy significantly older than she is, and don't allow your son to develop an intense relationship with a girl much younger than he is. The power difference between younger girls and older boys or men can lead girls into risky situations.
Help your teenagers to have options for the future that are more attractive than early pregnancy and parenthood. Help them set meaningful goals for the future, talk to them about what it takes to make future plans come true, and help them reach their goals. School failure is often the first sign of trouble; let your kids know that you value education highly.
Be media literate - know what your kids are watching, reading, and listening to. Remember, you can always turn the TV off, cancel subscriptions, and place certain movies off limits. You may not be able to fully control what your children see and hear, but you can certainly make your views known.
These first nine tips work best when they are part of strong, close relationships with your children that are built from an early age. Express love and affection clearly and often, listen carefully to what your children say, spend time with your children engaged in activities that they like, be supportive and interested in what interests them, and help them build self-esteem. Remember, it's never too late to improve a relationship with a child or teenager.
The Health Department clinics offer a broad range of quality reproductive services to both males and females. Medical, educational and counseling services in the area of human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases are provided. The Health Department also offers free human sexuality education for schools, community agencies, and any other interested parties.
Listed below are each clinic's new after school hours. Regular hours are 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Additional evening clinic appointments are available for all ages, please call for an appointment. Teen Clinics are open to walk-in patients, but scheduled appointment slots will be reserved for teenagers during these hours.
Jamestown Teen Clinics, second and fourth Wednesdays 3-6 p.m., 110 East Fourth St., Jamestown, 661-8111
Dunkirk Teen Clinics, first and third Tuesdays 3-6 p.m., 319 Central Ave., Dunkirk, 363-3660
For more information, contact the Health Department at 1-866-604-6789 or visit our website at www.needbirthcontrol.com.