Sexuality is part of adolescent development, but some of its consequences, including premature sexual intercourse, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases, have emerged as major health concerns for pediatricians. One million adolescent girls are estimated to become pregnant annually, and one third of these pregnancies end in abortion. The frequency with which pediatricians may encounter issues of pregnancy and abortion is high, and the reality of having to deal with these problems must be appreciated.
The Committee on Adolescence has prepared this statement with three guiding principles: (1) it should represent an unbiased guide to Academy Fellows faced with the problems of adolescent pregnancy and abortion; (2) none of the options offered will be universally preferred by either patients or physicians and, indeed, all carry the potential for patient disability; (3) the pediatrician, the adolescent patient, and other concerned individuals must be given adequate freedom of action to achieve their cumulative working decision.
The pediatrician should examine his or her own attitudes and beliefs about sexuality in the adolescent. Feelings about premarital sex, pregnancy, and abortion are personal, individual, and deeply rooted. Pediatricians and other health professionals must refrain from allowing their own sexual and moral standards to interfere with optimal care. For pediatricians who wish to counsel young people but lack the experience or confidence, there are numerous regional and national educational opportunities to learn about counseling teenagers. Some pediatricians may wish to participate in preceptorship training with professionals knowledgeable concerning pregnancy counseling. If pediatricians decide not to counsel their teenage patients about sexual matters such as pregnancy and abortion, they have a responsibility to refer their patients to counseling facilities experienced and sensitive to the needs of adolescents.
- Copyright © 1989 by the American Academy of Pediatrics