By: Dr. Aletha Akers
A 15 year old girl came to my clinic because of problems with her menstrual cycle, which is also called a ‘period’ or their ‘time of the month’. After reviewing her medical history, I asked her mother to step out of the room so I could speak with the young woman privately. Before doing so, I explained that taking time to talk is a routine part of health care visits for tweens and teens.
Did you know that guidelines for health care for youth advise that adolescent patients spend some time alone with their doctors? This is an important part of the health care visit because it helps young people to become comfortable talking with health care providers on their own, develops young people’s skills for advocating for their health care needs, and allows them to talk about sensitive topics.
What is covered during these private conversations? Here is a list of some of the topics:
- Sexual activity and sexuality
- Contraception and condom use
- Drug and alcohol use
- Tobacco use
- Mental health
During our private time, the 15 year old told me she was sexually active and using condoms. However, she wanted to talk about other methods for preventing pregnancy, as she was not ready to become a parent. She had also heard from friends that some birth control methods could also help with her periods. Like many young people I see, she did not want her parents to know that she was sexually active and was worried that I might tell her mother.
We encourage communication between parents and teens and believe that there are many positive effects as a result of a good parent-teen relationship. However, in this case, the care of this 15 year old patient cannot be jeopardized because of the lack of communication between her and her parents. The patient has the right to not share sexual health information with her parents. Today, we will talk about birth control and confidentiality during adolescent medical visits.
According to Pennsylvania Law, minors can seek family planning care without parents’ or guardians’ consent. In addition, they can have confidential contraceptive care and counseling. Teens have the right to have confidential information about sexually transmitted infections, contraceptive methods, emergency contraception, and responsible sexual behaviors.
Going back to our case, the patient tested negative for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. She received information about sexual health, given free condoms, and was informed about different birth control options. She even decided to start an injectable contraception! The patient received all the care she needed and everything was confidential.
Sexual health, including contraception and sexually transmitted infections, are part of health care. We would like to encourage you to communicate with your teen about sexual health. More importantly, we encourage to you take your teen to regular doctor appointments so topics regarding their sexual health can be further discussed. When was their last visit to their pediatrician or adolescent doctor?
For more information about confidential services and private time, click HERE.