In an article ostensibly about the importance of free birth control, is tucked this paragraph.

At the time, I didn’t realize that I could get pregnant if I missed a week or two of pills. In my high school sex-ed classes, the teacher preached about his kids and their purity vows and showed us slides of STDs, rather than giving us helpful information about sex and family planning. Like most teens, I turned to my friends to fill in the gaps, asking them the questions that I didn’t feel comfortable asking my parents, or looking for answers I didn’t get in class. One of the myths my friends told me was that if I’d been on birth control for a long time, it would build up in my system and I couldn’t get pregnant (definitely false, as I later learned).

I’ll have to forward this to Clancy, who does argue that young people really don’t know what they’re doing. We both believe in comprehensive sex-ed, though she supports less complete sex-ed forcefully and I support more complete sex-ed less forcefully. (“More complete” and “Less complete” defined by whether natural methods such as withdrawal or rhythm should be explained.)

On the other hand, as someone mentioned when I brought this up, “It’s right there on the box.”

As far as birth control goes, I’m less interested in access to The Pill as I am access to long-term contraception like IUD and Depo.


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9 Responses to Maybe Bigger Than The $40…

  1. I really wish I had better sex education while growing up. Some things that were very difficult for me might not have been. While it was never personally an issue for me, I don’t remember ever hearing the nuts and bolts of how people need to take the pill every day in order for it to be effective. I realize it’s “on the box,” but a lot of warnings/advice are on the box of the medications we take, and it’s not always clear what’s there just to be safe and what’s there because the info really needs to be followed.* Add to that the distorted decision making and risk taking processes many (most?) of use are prone to the opportunity to have sex comes into the picture.

    But to be fair, my teachers did what they could and it was better than nothing.

    *For example, my bottle of Tylenol says that more than 3,000 mg a day is bad. I imagine the number is probably closer to 4,000 mg, but they say 3,000 because it’s better to be safe. On the other hand, maybe I’m dead wrong and even the 3,000 mg number is too much. Just in case, I make sure to take well less than 3,000 when I’m sick and need to take more than one dose in a day.

  2. Jaybird says:

    Mandatory Depo until myelination completes!

  3. RTod says:

    I’m not trying to defend abstinence-only sex ed; I think it’s terrible policy.

    But since when does the fault or my not knowing how to properly take a prescription drug lie not with my physician or my pharmacist, but my public school?

    • Kazzy says:

      A fair question.

      I’d say that if schools were simply mum on the topic, involving themselves not at all, than we could point towards doctors and pharmacists. But given that schools wade into the topic — and generally somewhere between ineffectually to actively harmful — they retain at least some accountability. If multiple sources are giving conflicting information — and one of those sources has you as a captive audience for months or years during an incredibly formative period and the other has you for maybe a few minutes — the confusion seems reasonable if not expected.

    • trumwill says:

      Kazzy sort of gets at my response, which is conflicting information. A physician or pharmacist only have contact with the patient once a year, and usually not for long. I’m relatively certain that they do tell the youngsters “Take this every day.”

      But then the youngster hears from a friend “You don’t have to take it every day.”

      Youngster might conclude “Oh, well maybe the doctor was being overly cautious in their explanation.”

      The same can occur with sex-ed, of course. But with sex-ed, you can at least get into longer explanations about why it’s important to take it every day. And not only are you hearing it, but that friend who might be telling you that you don’t have to take it every day is hearing it also. So you might get less conflicting information.

      Or it might make no difference. Which I do think is often the case. Which is why I don’t consider it a cure-all. Whether preaching abstinence or comprehensive sex-ed, I think it’s just possible we overestimate how much young people listen.

      • Kazzy says:

        “…I think it’s just possible we overestimate how much young people listen.”

        Indeed. And, sadly, this is not an area we want them to learn via natural consequence.

        I remember when “Teen Mom” came out, I was terrified that it would glamorize those girls and incentivize more teens to take that route, even if only with the hope of being the next reality star. From what I’ve seen of the show (which in NO WAY glamorizes the experience of being a teenage parent) and heard of some research on it’s effect, I was dead wrong. That show is seen as a factor in the declining rates of teen pregnancy. Thank goodness for that.

        The reality is we simply don’t take sex ed — especially for young girls — seriously enough. Somehow I was drafted into contributing to the 9th grade health curriculum at my former school. Next thing I knew, I was being tasked with teaching the menstrual cycle to the girls. I refused. I rarely say no. But I refused. I argued this was too important a topic to leave in the hands of a pre-K teacher with no knowledge — practical or theoretical — about the topic. And yet so many people in my school thought this was a-okay. “Who cares? It’s just health? It’s just the menstrual cycle? How important is this?” I was dumbfounded that this was the response, especially given that several of the people offering it were women.

        Young people are disinclined to listen, especially to adults. As such, we need to give them every opportunity to hear the correct messages to increase the likelihood they stick. This means not leaving it to a one-time-a-year talk with a doctor.

      • RTod says:

        “If multiple sources are giving conflicting information — and one of those sources has you as a captive audience for months or years during an incredibly formative period and the other has you for maybe a few minutes — the confusion seems reasonable if not expected.”

        “A physician or pharmacist only have contact with the patient once a year, and usually not for long”

        I get this argument, but I’m not buying it.

        I learned a lot of things in health class, and I’m sure some of it was wrong (or at least has been proven to be wrong) and that I misremember other stuff, and some stuff is just fuzzy after time. If I chose to rely on that instead of instructions from my doctor or pharmacist today, how is that a failing of public schools?

        And yes, a woman might only see her doc once a year, but presumably she visited him the day he wrote her the prescription and explained the way to take birth control, yes?

        If we’re going to use the standard you two are suggesting, then we need to eliminate health class all together. Some of what we teach kids today about sex, food, weight, salt, carbs, etc, will surely have been re-thought after they’re out, and there will be changes. If we can’t trust someone to pay attention to what their doctor and pharmacist instructs them because it differs from what they remember their jr high or high school health teacher saying, why have those classes at all?

        • trumwill says:

          Well, for one thing, two voices are better than one. I’m not saying that providers and pharmacists shouldn’t explain every day. I suspect most do. The author’s of this piece probably did. But (a) there are limits to what they can do in a short period of time (compared to sex ed and health class, which is or can be longer) in explaining how it works and why it’s so important, and (b) two voices are better than one (or three are better than two). A couple hours in a classroom is (I think) more likely to stick than fifteen minutes with a doctor or five minutes with a pharmacist.

          Also, though this is new, we’re moving to a place where (c) it’s going to be OTC anyway.

          The big issue for me is that I don’t think we will ever be able to consider oral contraceptives reliable because compliance will always be spotty (due partly to this, but mostly to other things). So this all kind of nibbles around the edges. Part of the answer to this (to the extent there is one) is long-term contraceptives, but another part is taking a more wholistic, multiple defense approach that would be more a classroom thing than a clinic thing.

        • Kazzy says:

          I see it less as a failing of the public school and more of a maximizing your opportunity for positive impact.

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