Preventing STIs and unplanned pregnancies
To better understand
During adolescence, many teens will become sexually active. In fact, by grade 11, half of all teens have already had a sexual relationship.
Many parents express concern about their teen becoming sexually active. They worry about sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) or an unplanned pregnancy. But rest assured, there are many ways to help your teen stay safe. And the best time to start is before they become sexually active.
First of all, many birth control options exist for preventing unplanned pregnancies, including condoms, birth control pills, contraceptive rings and patches, and IUDs. Some contain hormones and others do not. Condoms are still the most effective way to protect against STBBIs while also preventing pregnancy. And using a hormonal birth control method with a condom provides double protection. That said, there are several things that can hold teens back from using condoms, such as embarrassment, fear of rejection, or the heat of the moment.
But remember! There’s much more to sexuality than just penetration and reproduction. Sexuality can also be explored through sexual activities that involve little or no risk of STBBIs and pregnancy, such as kissing, touching, masturbation, and more.
As a parent, you can guide your teen on how to have a healthy, responsible and fulfilling sex life. You can help them make informed decisions about their sexuality and give them information about how to protect themselves against STBBIs and unplanned pregnancies.
• According to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (2019), young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are one of the age groups most affected by STBBIs. More than half of all cases of chlamydia diagnosed are in this age group.
• According to data from the Québec Health Survey of High School Students (2016-2017), 78% of teens use a method of contraception. In contrast, only 58% of teens use condoms (down from 68% in 2010-2011). When it comes to dual protection, 41% use a hormonal method and condoms.
• According to the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, the pregnancy rate among women between the ages of 14 and 17 has declined steadily from 2001-2003 (17.5 per 1,000) to 2014-2016 (6.8 per 1,000). And it’s no coincidence this decline coincides with better access to hormonal birth control methods!
Want to learn more?
Check out our information sheets for more statistics, key facts, and solutions for families, schools, and communities.
To better support
- Bring up the subject of sexual health with your teen. Talk to your teen about the importance of wellness, physical health, pleasure, respect, and their relationship with their partner(s). You can use videos, radio shows, podcasts, or TV series about sexuality to get the discussion going.
- Talk to your teen about STBBIs and pregnancy: the different types of STBBIs, high-risk sexual behaviour, and safer sexual practices (visit this page for more information about STBBIs and how they are transmitted).
- Talk to your teen about ways to prevent STBBIs and unplanned pregnancies, ideally before their first sexual experience. Contrary to popular belief, simply talking to your teen about sex does not mean you are encouraging them to go out and do it!
- Give your teen information about sex: pamphlets (Getting to know STBBIs), credible websites (https://itss.gouv.qc.ca/; Tel-jeunes), videos (CBC GEM About sex), and people they can talk to (family and friends, school nurse, case worker, sexologist).
- Tell your teen where they can go to talk about sexual health and get condoms, birth control, or emergency oral contraception, for example, the school nurse, a youth clinic, an Aire ouverte clinic, or the pharmacy.
- Talk to your teen about pregnancy prevention, no matter their gender. Both partners are responsible for being safe, not just the person who can end up pregnant!
- As a parent, you obviously can’t stand next to your teen to make sure they’re having safe sex. However, by being supportive and talking to your teen about the importance of sexual health, you’re helping them develop their ability to stay safe and consult health professionals.
- Conversely, refusing to talk about sex could prevent your teen from adopting safe sexual practices. When you’re unwilling to talk about it, you deprive your teen of a safe space in which to develop their ability to protect themselves and ask for help if they need it. Remember that talking about sex is not the same thing as encouraging it! By discussing it openly, you’re actually giving your teen the tools they need to have a healthy and responsible sex life when the time comes.
- Go with your teen to buy condoms and/or get birth control (e.g., go with them to the doctor, drive them to the pharmacy).
- Teach your teen how to use a condom. If you are uncomfortable doing this, point your teen to a source of reliable information (e.g., family member, nurse, ).
- Give your teen the tools they need to talk about condoms with their sexual partner(s). For example, how to respond to a partner who doesn’t want to use protection (you can find arguments here: The top worst excuses…).
- Educate your teen about what to do if they’re worried about an STBBI or an unplanned pregnancy (e.g., emergency oral contraception, testing). Regular STBBI tests are recommended for sexually active teens, even if they have no symptoms!
- If your teen is worried they may be pregnant or have an STBBI, go with them to their appointment (e.g., family doctor, youth clinic, school nurse), without judging them. Your teen is being responsible by taking charge of their sexual health and needs your support.
- Make sure your teen has their health insurance card and teach them how to navigate the health system. Starting at age 14, your teen has the right to receive confidential health services.
- Make condoms available to your teen at home.
- Build trust at home so your teen will want to ask you questions and confide in you if needed.
- Respect your teen’s privacy and keep your conversations confidential.
Keep a box of condoms in a discreet place that your teen can take if needed. Fill the box regularly, with no questions asked. Take the opportunity to leave pamphlets about sexual health in the box. If your teen needs help, they’ll know where to find it!
As a parent, you can give your teen information about how to protect themselves against STBBIs and unplanned pregnancies. Whether it’s talking to them about different ways to stay safe, discussing how to stand up for themselves, or pointing them to a variety of sexual health resources, you’re encouraging your teen to have a responsible sex life.
Resources and practical tools
1. For support:
If you are dealing with a situation that has you worried, do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a health and social services professional:
2. To learn more :
Mosaïk – Le Bulletin: How do I talk to my child about contraception?
Mosaïk – Le Bulletin: How do I talk to my child about condoms?
Sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada website: Sex & U (sexandu.ca)
Brochure on contraception from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Latest updates : May 2023