Media Center: Adolescent Reproductive Health

Teen sexuality is a volatile subject. The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world, yet debates rage each year over the best way to teach adolescents about sexual health.

Many doctors say that their lack of training makes talking to teenage patients about sex and sexuality difficult. Physicians for Reproductive Health works to fill this void through the Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Education Program, a national curriculum that has reached thousands of doctors and other health care providers.  Our faculty includes the nation’s top experts in adolescent health, who are available to answer your questions about teens and sex.

What Our Doctors Are Saying

“It’s bad enough that we’re spending vast sums of money on programs that don’t work. What’s worse, however, are the consequences of failing to teach teens how to protect their health.”
—Physicians for Reproductive Health board member Margaret Baylson, MD, Philadelphia Daily News



Media Resources:

Highly Effective and Low-Maintenance: Spreading LARC Awareness

Dr. Pratima GuptaLARC Awareness Week is November 15-21. Our Reproductive Health Advocacy Fellow Dr. Pratima Gupta discusses why long-acting reversible contraceptives are a great option.

After being plagued by with a bad reputation and lack of awareness, long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) are finally gaining much-deserved momentum. The Guttmacher Institute recently reported that U.S. women are increasingly turning to highly effective LARC methods—particularly intrauterine devices (IUDs). According to the report, the IUD and the contraceptive implant use increased from about 9% in 2009 to nearly 12% in 2012.

As a physician, I can personally vouch for the fact that IUDs are the most popular method of birth control used by family planning practitioners — we know firsthand about their safety profile and efficacy. With failure rates of less than 1% per year, LARCs are the most effective reversible methods available.

Most women are excellent IUD candidates, regardless of age or whether they’ve had children or not. And depending on what IUD option they choose, they don’t need to worry about birth control for three, five, or 10 years.

Despite all of this great news, those of us who work in reproductive health and family planning still have to counter the misinformation, especially about IUDs, on a regular basis. Sometimes a patient will tell me that she’s interested in getting an IUD but that a friend told her that they were dangerous, or that she heard only women who have had kids can use them. I always explain what I know to be true: IUDs are safe and effective and appropriate for women of all ages.

The implant (Nexplanon®) is a popular method with my younger patients, which isn’t a surprise. In one large contraceptive study, over 40% of those surveyed under 18 opted for the implant. Smaller than a matchstick, it is discreet and hidden under the skin of the inner arm. It is an easy two-minute insertion that feels like getting a shot and doesn’t require a pelvic exam. It has the lowest failure rate of any form of contraception — 0.05% — and works for three years.

LARCs are fantastic—they’re highly effective and low-maintenance. But I always tell my patients that the best birth control method for them is the one that they choose for themselves—and the one they feel most comfortable using. That’s why we discuss all the options available, the full range of contraceptive methods, including LARC methods.

If you are a health care practitioner looking to learn more about LARC, here are some great resources:


Newsletter: Summer Roundup – We’ve Been Busy!

We Stand With Planned Parenthood and All Providers Under Attack

We Stand With Abortion Care ProvidersThis has been a nonstop summer here at Physicians. We’ve been exceptionally busy, our doctors providing voices of reason in the media and on the Hill—particularly in response to the harmful attacks on our colleagues at Planned Parenthood. As President/CEO Jodi Magee said, “Physicians for Reproductive Health deplores the deceptive tactics used to distort and malign the importance of fetal tissue donation and offers support for women and providers that make the compassionate decision to donate.”

We are outraged at what’s happening, and are doing everything we can to fight back.

  • Physicians signed on to a letter with 17 other medical organizations to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), urging them to oppose Congressional efforts to deny Planned Parenthood federal public health funds. We also joined with 91 other organizations in a letter of support for Planned Parenthood to members of Congress.
  • We released a statement of support, which reads in part: We stand in solidarity with all the providers and clinicians who have been unfairly and inappropriately depicted in a smear campaign intent on destroying their integrity. These are our friends, and they have dedicated their professional and personal lives to ensuring access to safe, legal, and compassionate care for anyone who needs it.

And of course we’re speaking out:

  • President/CEO Jodi Magee published a letter in the New York Times, calling for more doctors to stand up and support abortion providers, noting, “While women who have abortions need our support, so do the doctors who care for them.”
  • Consulting medical director Dr. Anne Davis appeared on MSNBC’s Now with Alex Wagner to offer scientific facts about fetal tissue donation.
  • Davis was also interviewed by Yahoo! Health News about the importance of fetal tissue donation. This led to another piece on Yahoo! Health News about why women may choose to donate fetal tissue.
  • Board chair-elect Dr. Willie Parker was interviewed by Cosmopolitan about why he is standing with his colleague Dr. Deborah Nucatola at Planned Parenthood. His interview was quoted in an RH Reality Check article about why abortion providers should take legal action against the Center for Medical Progress. Parker also appeared on the news program Democracy Now!
  • Former Physicians board chair Dr. Suzanne Poppema published an op-ed in the Seattle Times in response to the attacks on Planned Parenthood.
  • Leadership Training Academy (LTA) alumna Dr. Sandra Penn spoke to the Albuquerque Journal in reaction to protests in New Mexico that aimed to intimidate women, defund Planned Parenthood, and interfere with access to safe and legal abortion.
  • LTA alumna Dr. Jennifer Kerns spoke to Public News Service about the attacks, noting, “Fetal tissue research is a longstanding area of research, and one that has consistently advanced science and medicine. Every member of society has benefited from treatment discoveries that have been made from this research.”
  • LTA alumna Dr. Leah Torres published a letter in the Salt Lake Tribune outlining the impact that defunding Planned Parenthood would have on the health and wellbeing of Utahns.

As an organization dedicated to ensuring that all people have access to comprehensive reproductive health care, we will continue to be alert to opportunities to speak out, to show our support for Planned Parenthood and all of our allied organizations, and to protect our doctors.

Illinois Minors’ Access Card

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of the 2015 Minors’ Access Card for the state of Illinois, available for download here.

We have updated this popular and important resource to reflect current state law and statutes and organized the information so that it will be easily understood by clinic staff and medical professionals who work with teen populations.

This updated Minors’ Access Card clarifies Illinois state laws around confidentiality and parental notification and provides guidelines for clear communication between physicians and their patients, all of which are essential when providing services to adolescents on critical reproductive and sexual health topics.

This card is the result of a collaboration with the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, the Roger Baldwin Foundation of the American Civil Liberties Union, Inc., the Great Lakes Regional Chapter of the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine, and local physician experts who are part of our Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Education Program.

Why I Provide

Why I Provide, the video that we unveiled earlier this year and which features five abortion providers discussing their work, is a welcome reminder of what makes our work so meaningful. Telling our stories in the face of adversity is one of the many ways we fight abortion stigma. Please watch it and share it with your friends and loved ones.

Why I Provide

Despite the current climate, we will not be deflected from our mission of advancing reproductive health care for all through our physician-advocates. We thank you for your support that enables us to do this work. 

Dr. Lonna Gordon: Happy Mother’s Day to Young Mothers Everywhere

Dr. Lonna GordonLonna Gordon, MD, PharmD, is a pediatrician who specializes in adolescent medicine at the Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York City. She is a Leadership Training Academy fellow.

It is a bright spring day and I am headed to meet a friend at the park. A woman passing me on the street smiles at me and says, “Happy Mother’s Day!” I am not a mother, but after many Mother’s Days, as a “true adult” I have learned it is just easier to smile and offer a polite “Thank You” to well-wishers. Moreover, as a pediatrician who specializes in adolescent medicine I am a caretaker of hundreds of children, so perhaps I exude motherly qualities.

Later that week I see one of my patients, a young mother whom I will call Shannon, in my exam room and ask her how her Mother’s Day was.

“Ok,” she replies.

“Just ok?” I prod. “Did you do anything special?  Have a nice meal?  Get flowers or a card?”

“No,” she says with a sigh, “It was just another day.”

I change the subject, and soon we are discussing how to potty train her son and prepare him for the new baby expected in a few months. I check in on how many semesters she has left at the local community college and tell Shannon how proud I am that she is pursuing her educational goals. However, as I move through the rest of my day I can’t help but feel sad for her. How terrible it must feel as a mother to have no one acknowledge your hard work and accomplishments, especially on Mother’s Day!

In my practice at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York City, I work every day with a multidisciplinary team to provide vital, comprehensive adolescent health care that emphasizes confidentiality and support for whatever happens in our patients’ lives. We empower young people to make responsible choices concerning their reproductive health. While access to comprehensive sex education and contraception are absolutely important, this is only one part of the solution. When those approaches fail and one of my patients becomes pregnant, I support her no matter what she decides. If she makes the deeply personal choice to become a parent, I support her.

So while I provide the full range of contraceptive care, I also care for teenage parents and their children and I support them in their efforts to be excellent parents and raise healthy kids. At the Center, I am able to provide these services free of charge, and without judgment.

Our culture frequently sends the message to young parents that they are irresponsible and a burden to society. We tell them they are too young to parent, won’t be able to do it well, and that their lives and dreams are over when they have a child.  We marginalize and stigmatize them.

But what would happen if instead we—doctors, teachers, social workers, society—gave them support? We know that when young people are healthy in mind and body, they can make it in this world. What if we taught them good parenting skills? What if we encouraged their educational goals and dreams? What if we ensured they had secure housing, reliable child-care and nutritious food? What if we equipped them with the knowledge and resources for planning their next pregnancy?

Young mothers want the same things for their children that all mothers want. They want to do a good job. They work at balancing parenting with their many other personal responsibilities. They want their kids to be happy, healthy, and successful. They need to feel supported as they do their best in such a meaningful role.

As a doctor, I am in a privileged position. I get to see tangible results of what young mothers achieve when they are supported. They are happy and well adjusted. They finish high school. They go to college. They get jobs. Their kids are healthy and meet their developmental milestones. They learn how to co-parent with their child’s father or other extended family members.

A year has passed and Shannon is the mother of two and just three months away from finishing her associate’s degree. My hope for her this Mother’s Day is that she experiences a holiday where she is celebrated and validated. So to Shannon, and all the young moms reading this who may feel forgotten or undervalued: I believe in you and I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!

Crossposted on Feministing 

Announcing the Newest Edition of Our Adolescent Health Curriculum

ARSHEPThe fifth edition of the Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Education Program (ARSHEP) curriculum is now available! ARSHEP is our nationwide educational initiative aimed at teaching physicians more about adolescent reproductive and sexual health. In 2014 alone, members of the 45-person ARSHEP faculty delivered nearly 100 interactive lectures and workshops to over 10,000 health care professionals across the country.

The latest curriculum consists of 20 modules—including three all-new topics—that offer comprehensive, evidence-based information about adolescent reproductive and sexual health care. Topics include long-acting reversible contraception; STI testing and treatment; caring for pregnant and parenting adolescents; pregnancy options counseling; caring for LGBTQ adolescents; emergency contraception; and physicians as advocates for adolescent reproductive health.

The ARSHEP curriculum is available in modules you can download from our website.

If you are a health care professional who works with adolescents or educates other clinicians, we hope you’ll find the fifth edition of the ARSHEP curriculum a tremendous resource.