DEAR ABBY: I am a third-year medical student completing my pediatrics rotation. I recently saw a 14-year-old girl who thought she might be pregnant because she was experiencing symptoms of morning sickness. As her mother and I listened, she described having had unprotected sex for several months.
I knew she needed a pregnancy test, pelvic exam, a Pap smear to check for cervical cancer, and special tests for various sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). When I explained this to the patient and her mother, they both seemed shocked that we could perform a pelvic exam on such a young teen. (There are smaller instruments made especially for younger girls.) It took much reassurance before we could proceed.
Abby, please inform sexually active teen-age girls that they need a pelvic exam and Pap smear AT LEAST once a year. The best time to start is BEFORE having sex so the teen can learn about "safe sex" -- and lower the risk of pregnancy and STDs.
Most states allow teen-agers to receive confidential medical care and information regarding contraception, pregnancy and STDs without parental permission. Teens can seek free or low-cost treatment from local health departments and family planning clinics.
Of course, sexual activity involves more than one person. Teen-age boys also need to take responsibility for their health and the health of their partners.
If teens are too embarrassed to talk to medical providers about preventing pregnancy and STDs, they are too young and immature to have sex. -- MED STUDENT IN RICHMOND, VA.
DEAR MED STUDENT: I agree. Thank you for your information and insight. It's unfortunate that many young adults engage in sexual relationships for which they are neither physically nor emotionally ready. They need to know it's all right to say no. A mature sexual relationship involves not only taking care of oneself, but also taking care of the partner.
P.S. You are going to be a wonderful doctor!