The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports sex education that includes information
about both abstinence and birth
control. Research has shown that this information doesn't increase kids'
level of sexual activity, but actually promotes and increases the proper use of birth
control methods among sexually active teens.
How and when you discuss
sex and birth control is up to you. Providing the facts is vital, but it's also
wise to tell your kids where you stand. Remember, by approaching these issues
like any other health topics, not as something dirty or embarrassing, you increase
the odds that your kids will feel comfortable coming to you with any questions
and problems. As awkward as it might feel, answer questions honestly. And if you don't
know the answers, it's OK to say so, then find out and get back to your kids.
If you have questions about how to talk with your child about sex, consider asking
your doctor. Lots of parents find this tough to tackle, and a doctor may offer some
What Is Abstinence?
Abstinence is not having sex. A person who decides to practice abstinence has chosen
not to have sex or any type of sexual play.
How Does Abstinence Work?
Abstinence is the simplest form of birth control. If two people don't have sex,
then sperm can't fertilize an egg and there's no possibility of pregnancy. Other forms
of birth control depend on barriers that prevent the sperm from reaching the egg (such
as condoms or diaphragms)
or they interfere with the menstrual cycle (as birth
control pills do). With abstinence, no barriers or pills are necessary.
Does your child have to be a virgin to practice abstinence? No. Sometimes, someone
who has been having sex decides to stop doing so. Even a person who has been having
sex can still choose abstinence to prevent pregnancy and STDs in the future.
How Well Does Abstinence Work?
Abstinence is the only form of birth control that is 100% effective in preventing
pregnancy. Although many other methods can have high rates of success if used properly,
they can fail occasionally. The rate of success of other birth control methods varies
depending on the type of birth control. Practicing abstinence, however, ensures that
a girl will not become pregnant because there is no opportunity for sperm to fertilize
Protection Against STDs
Abstinence protects people against STDs. Some STDs can be spread through oral-genital
sex, anal sex, or even intimate skin-to-skin contact without actual penetration (for
example, genital warts and herpes can be spread this way).
Avoiding all types of intimate genital contact — called complete
abstinence — is the only way to guarantee complete protection
against STDs. Because someone practicing complete abstinence does not have any type
of intimate sexual contact, including oral sex, there is no risk of passing on an
Abstinence does not prevent HIV/AIDS,
hepatitis B, and hepatitis
C infections that come from nonsexual activities like using contaminated needles
for doing drugs, tattooing, or injecting steroids.
Who Practices Abstinence?
Not having sex may seem easy because it's not doing anything. But peer pressure
and things teens see on TV and in the movies can make the decision to practice abstinence
more difficult. If it seems like everybody else is having sex, some teens may feel
they have to do it, too, just to be accepted. Help your kids understand that kidding
or pressure from friends, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, or even the media shouldn't push
them into something that's not right for them.
Choosing abstinence is an important decision — and kids might not realize
it, but most teens are not having sex.
Teens may have questions about making this choice or about other methods of birth
control. Make sure yours has an adult he or she can trust — you, a teacher,
a counselor, a doctor, or a school nurse — who can provide some answers.