Unintended pregnancy is a significant issue for Hispanic teenagers. About one out of every 40 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have a baby every year. That’s come down a lot. A generation ago, it was almost 1 in 9. But it’s still twice as high as the rate for white teenagers.
Surveys show most Hispanic teenagers who get pregnant weren’t trying to. You can keep from becoming one of them by learning about birth control. The more you learn – and the more you get comfortable talking about it with your parents and your partner – the less likely you are to have an unplanned pregnancy.
What You Use Matters
Condoms are great for preventing sexually transmitted infections. But they don’t work as well as other methods for preventing pregnancy. Here’s how effective different methods are with typical use:
- Intrauterine device (IUD): almost 100%
- Implants: almost 100%
- Injections: 94%
- Birth control pills or patch: 91%
- Diaphragm: 88%
- Condoms: 82%
- Withdrawal: 78%
- Spermicide: 72%
- No birth control: 15%
Less than a quarter of Hispanic teens use highly effective forms of birth control, like pills or IUDs, compared with almost half of white teens.
Communication Is Key
A lot of people have a hard time talking about sex. That can keep you from getting good information about birth control.
Many Hispanic teens say their parents don’t talk to them about sex, or the conversation is limited to “don’t do it.” But if you do talk to your parents, you’re more likely to use birth control consistently. And you’re also more likely to get the kind of highly effective birth control that a doctor can give you.
It may also be uncomfortable talking to your partner about birth control. That may be because of traditional gender stereotypes. Guys may not bring it up because they think it’s the girl’s responsibility. Girls might think the guy is the boss in the relationship and have trouble speaking up about what they want.
Here are some things to make the conversation easier:
- Do your research. Look into the pros and cons of each method and decide what you want to use.
- Think about what you want to say. You might want to write some things down and even practice.
- Pick a good time to talk. NOT when you’re in the heat of the moment.
- Admit it if you feel awkward. Your partner probably does too.
- Listen to what your partner has to say. If they’re quiet, ask what they’re thinking.
- Be prepared to follow up. If you and your partner aren’t on the same page about disease and pregnancy prevention, it might be better to put off sex until you are.
It’s worth it to work on healthy communications skills. It can make you feel closer with your partner. And you’re more likely to use birth control, and avoid getting pregnant, if you talk about it as a couple.
Your family is probably a big influence in your life. That can be good and bad when it comes to sex and birth control.
You may feel torn between the messages you’re getting from pop culture and people your age, and what you’re taught at home, especially if your parents weren’t born in the United States. One study found that Hispanic teens who identify as bicultural are less likely to use the most effective kinds of birth control.
Parental authority. You may think your parents are stricter than others. And you probably got the message that your family doesn’t approve of sex outside marriage. That may influence your behavior. Hispanic teens whose parents have a stronger relationship with them and keep a closer eye on them are less likely to be sexually active.
But many teenagers are going to have sex no matter what their parents think. They just won’t feel like they can go to them for guidance. A lot of Hispanic teenagers say the reason they don’t use birth control is because they’re afraid their parents will find out.
Gender roles. Growing up, you may have been taught traditional ways that men and women are supposed to behave.
Girls might have learned that it’s shameful to have sex before marriage, and they should be virtuous and responsible. Boys may get the message that premarital sex is OK and fatherhood is valued.
Both stereotypes can make it harder for a couple to talk about sex and birth control.
Health Care Access
To get the most effective forms of birth control, you have to go to a doctor’s office or clinic. Most teenagers can’t or won’t do that.
It’s particularly an issue for Hispanic girls. Many say they’ve had bad experiences with reproductive health services. They say they don’t think their privacy will be respected and think their parents will find out they were there.
You may not be able to afford your own birth control. Hispanic teenagers are less likely to have insurance. And those who do may not want to use it for fear it will involve their parents.
Or the problem may be as basic as not being able to get a ride to a clinic.
Where Can You Get Help?
You probably had some kind of sex education in school. But it may not have included information about birth control or how to use it.
You might base your decisions on what you think other people your age are doing, or what you see on social media. But your friends may not know any more than you do.
Some better sources of information are:
- Your parents or other adult family members
- Teachers or school counselors
- A doctor or nurse
- Reliable websites. The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine has a list.
If your parents haven’t started the conversation, it may be up to you:
- Do some research so you know what you want to ask about.
- Think about what you want to say. It may help to write it down or even practice.
- Think about starting with general questions before you talk about what’s going on with you.
- Understand that this might be hard for your parents. Even adults can be uncomfortable talking about sex. And they may have trouble accepting that you’re growing up.
- Ask about their values and experiences.
- Have some resources handy, like links to websites, to help your parents out. Talking about these issues may not come naturally to them.
A nonprofit group called Power to Decide has more tips on how to ask the adults in your life for advice and help with relationship issues. Check out its Teen Talk webpage.