According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute and other reliable sources, a sexually active young adult who does not use contraceptives has around a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within just one year. That's not a new statistic or anything a lot of people don't know, but it's one that makes clear how important it is for sexually active teens to find, have and use a birth control method which works for them.
The trouble is that all too often, when a young person talks to a healthcare provider about birth control, the conversation usually starts there and ends, within mere minutes, with them walking away with a prescription for a birth control pill. Sure, the pill is highly effective when used properly, and for most users, it's also very safe. But for a handful of reasons, the pill is also often ineffective for teens (and many adult women), who tend to use it more sporadically than their adult counterparts. Teens also are often not asked how they feel about certain common side effects -- such as decreased sexual drive, vaginal dryness, and increases in depression -- before being given the pill, or whatever other method a healthcare provider has a personal preference for. It certainly doesn't help that many adults, including healthcare providers, don't approve of teens being sexually active in the first place.
That isn't to say there aren't great providers out there who do have real, in-depth discussions with young adult patients, make themselves aware of teen-specific birth control issues and do their best to help them consider all methods exhaustively: there are. Too, we have to bear in mind that doctors have very busy schedules and an extended birth control consultation takes time, particularly if their client doesn't have much or any information on their own before they come into the office. Our healthcare providers are there to help us, to be sure, but they're not the people responsible for our health or our entire health education: that's primarily up to us, and in the information age, it's easier than it's ever been to inform ourselves.
This is a big part of why I've just taken a couple of months to add very detailed pages on all methods of birth control, as well as to design a click-through personal assessment for users to determine what their own best methods may be, based on their individual health histories, particular lifestyles, what side effects they can and cannot deal with, interpersonal factors and other issues. We do a lot of this already at our message boards, and I do it for every client I counsel in my job at the clinic, but again, in both cases, a client is relying on our available time, rather than able to really consider methods at their leisure and their own pace.
Want to find out what your best method might be, or browse through available methods? Go for it!
(And a special thanks to Scarleteen volunteer Lauren for her help in concept development. Thanks, Lauren!)
We've also had another new addition this month, a great, in-depth piece on Fertility Awareness by Kate Storm, whether you're interested in charting as a backup method of birth control, or just to get to know your body better.
We are currently very much in need of a few new volunteers at Scarleteen who can commit to being and staying active. We're often shorthanded, but over the last year, especially since I have had to take an extra job away from the home office in order to make ends meet, the workload has become very tough to manage (and left me personally with time for a day off only once or twice a month). Because of the nature of my other work -- security is an issue that's beyond obvious at an abortion clinic -- I don't have 'net access during those days, and even if I did, I'd not have a minute left over to work on Scarleteen.
As of late, Scarleteen has served around 20K in users a day, and winter is always our slowest time. Once spring starts to flirt with us, our users start increasing until they double during the summer months, so if we're shorthanded now, it's only going to get a lot worse in just a couple of months.
The areas we need help most with now are:
- Sexpert Advice: Are you or have you been a counselor, peer counselor, sexual health researcher or healthcare provider or advice maven? We need you! On top of many, many questions at the message boards, we usually get no less than ten questions a day at the main site advice area, and as of late, there have only been two or three of us to answer them, leaving us with such a backlog that we have had to take no new questions for the time being. Sexpert Advice answers are column-length, well-written replies to questions on a wide array of sexuality, sexual health and relationship topics.
- Writers: While I'm glad to write the majority of the content for Scarleteen, we have always felt that our readers benefit most from diverse perspectives, which they can't really get when most of the content has a single author. As well, we strongly encourage peer-age writers to step up, and love to get teen voices out there. So, no matter your age, if you'd like to write something for us, we'd love to talk to you.
- Site development helpers: Nothing fancy here -- where we mostly need help is in finding and adding new external resources to all of our sections, eyes for existing articles to be sure all the information is current (sexuality and sexual health information changes all the time), folks to link message board discussions to our main site sections and the lot.
- Savvy fundraisers and outreach folks: We always, always need help with fundraising and outreach, and have been doing this for so long that fresh, creative ideas are imperative.
We do not have any paying positions at Scarleteen (I often have a salary for working it full-time, but to say it is modest is the understatement of the century: I'd make more working in a fast-food joint): all work is volunteer.
Our volunteers almost always work remotely, but if you happen to be in the Seattle area, all the better. We don't ask much of your time: even if you only have a couple hours a week, your help would be invaluable to us and our teen readers.
Interested in volunteering? Hooray! Drop me a line.