Having a healthy sexual health as a teenager

Entering your adolescence signifies major changes in your body, both physical and hormonal. For many teenagers, this is a period in their life where they begin to explore their sexuality. In fact, more than 40% of high school students have been reported having sexual intercourse in 2015. Whether you are already having sex or are in the process of deciding to have sex, it is paramount to know how to stay healthy. Here are some facts to consider, even if you do feel that you know all there is to know about sex and having a healthy sexual life.

Before everything else, remember that:

  • You should never be forced to have sex. And, even if you are, do NOT blame yourself. In this case, always seek help from an adult you trust.
  • Using drugs and/or alcohol will NOT help you make clear sex-related choices.
  • Sex can affect how you feel about yourself and change your relationships and life. For that reason, it is important to wait for the right time – when you feel ready to have sex or when your relationship is ready for this next step.

  • Sexting can be fun and a way to express your desire for each other without getting physical. It may also help to learn how to practice consent and build effective communication skills. This is great in a trusting relationship where you feel safe. However, sexting comes with risks since you don’t know where (and with whom) your messages are shared with. Just be mindful of that.
  • You deserve to feel good about your body. Healthy self-esteem and positive body image are paramount to your mental health, healthy sexual life, and your wellbeing overall. Don’t get carried away by the pictures of the so-called perfect body. You should never be pushed to make yourself something that it is not. You are beautiful just the way you are. No need to compare yourself to celebs and friends.

The mustknows of healthy sexual life

Provided that you have protected your mental health (i.e., by started experiencing your sexuality with your partner at the time you felt was just right), it is equally essential to safeguard your sexual health, as well. Given that having sex has health risks, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like herpes, hepatitis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV, preventing getting an STI is a major consideration. Having no sex (abstinence) is the perfect way to stay away from STIs. It is also a way to prevent getting pregnant, which is another sex-related risk among teens (how ready are you to become a teen parent?). Nevertheless, using condoms and perhaps getting a vaccine to protect yourself against HPV can indeed reduce the risk if you are going to have sex. There are both male and female condoms, but they should not be worn at the same time to avoid getting them torn. And remember that a new condom should be used before any genital contact (this means a new condom for every vaginal, anal, or oral sex act from start to finish).

Other effective birth-control types include contraceptive implants, birth control pills, birth control rings, emergency contraception, and others. However, these options should be discussed with your doctor or gynaecologist.

Also, getting regular medical check-ups to ensure you stay healthy is a step in the right direction. Bear in mind that sexually transmitted diseases may take more than six months to show up on a test. If you are in a committed relationship, then you only need to be tested once. If your partner has shared a needle and used injected drugs or suspect that he/she has had sex with someone else, then do get tested again.

Resources for Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health

Among the online sites with a wealth of resources on sexual health for teen boys and girls are:

Apps: My Pill (sets reminders to schedule appointments, take your birth control pill, track symptoms, etc.), and My Sex Doctor (offers information about sex, relationships, and puberty).

 Every country has a network of support organisations and helplines that can assist with teen-related issues and concerns, sexual health included. Simply check what is available in your area or seek guidance from a trusted adult or, even better, a licensed professional.

There is no reason not to experience the joys of life. It is paramount, though, that you do so responsibly, always with your best health, wellbeing, and interest in mind.