Sexual health is looking after all aspects of your health when you become sexually active so this can include both the physical side and the emotional side.
Let’s talk about sex…
In today’s society, sex is everywhere whether we like it or not. Films, music videos, television and magazines lead those who see them to be exposed to varying levels of sex related material ranging from sexualised images of both women and men, nudity, sexual performances and use of sexual language. It is a part of day to day existence in western society and a key player in the sexual socialisation of young people in particular. This is a key time for learning with information available at the touch of a button or from friends. But is it the truth?
The current (2015) age of consent to engage in sexual activity in the UK is 16 years old regardless of their sexual orientation or gender. However, Home Office guidance indicates that if both parties are under 16 years old, are of a similar age and have both given consent, no prosecution is intended. For those under 12 years old, there is legal protection from the Sexual Offences Act 2003 as they cannot give legal consent.
According to NHS statistics, most sexual activity between teenagers is unintentional with 25–33% having heterosexual intercourse before 16 years of age. Contraception use amongst this age group has also been recognised as being significantly lower than with those over 16 years old. However, GP’s or other health professionals ARE allowed to give contraceptive advice to young people under 16 years old if they feel it is in their medical interest and they have capacity to understand the information being given to them.
Alcohol and drug taking are often factors with sexual activity and can further encourage young people to be exposed to risky situations and risky behaviours.
Here are some websites that can provide more information on sexual health:
Help! I’m a parent/carer, where do I even begin with this subject?
First of all, breathe! Sex is why we are all here in the first place. It is a basic human instinct and a necessity for the survival of the human race, and breathe again! As with most topics, information and communication are key to supporting teenagers to make positive choices and develop informed ideas.
Try to make a slow and subtle introduction to the topic from an early age, perhaps even from 4 years old as opposed to having one big talk. You could do it while watching TV or using everyday situations like seeing a pregnant person walking around and have an open chat about how they think babies come into the world. You could do it while also doing something else so that it doesn’t seem like a purposeful and planned conversation!
This could also make it easier for you as you will be busy. You can always use humour as well! How and when you talk to your child is up to you. Yes it’s embarrassing, yes it’s uncomfortable but yes it is a necessary part of your role to help your child have positive sexual health.
For more information on how to broach the subject, please visit the Family Planning Association (FPA) website. It gives you hints and tips on what to say and when to say it for all different age groups:
Puberty is the process of the sexual organs becoming functional and the body maturing and being able to sexually reproduce. It can start from 8 years old but more often from around 10 years old continuing until around 16 years old. It is caused by testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone and affects body shape and growth and the menstrual cycle. Women’s reproductive organs are both inside and outside the body whereas male reproductive organs are only outside the body. For more information, please visit these websites:
Again, knowledge and information around this subject will help your teenager to be responsible and make positive choices. If a person under 16 years old wishes to have contraception, they can speak with their doctor, nurse or pharmacist about their decision and they will not disclose the information to their parent provided they believe the person is not at risk of harm and fully understand the information they are being given. It is also important to recognise the responsibility for contraception is equally shared between the parties involved whether they are male or female. For further information and support, please visit these websites:
Sexually Transmitted Infections(STI)
Having unprotected sex can lead not only to pregnancy but also increases the risk of contracting an STI. All it takes is for one person to carry an infection and spread it on. It’s important to remember that just because a person has an infection, it does not mean they have had multiple sexual partners. There are more than 25 types of STI’s with varying symptoms. For further information please visit these websites:
When anybody becomes pregnant, it is a huge life changing situation which can be surprising in both a positive and negative way dependent on the person. Having a pregnant teenager can be especially hard as they have so many other things they also need to contend with and so many decisions they have to make with lots of different aspects of their lives. It can also be very hard for the parents and creates many different emotions like shock, anger, disappointment and worry. However, no matter how difficult it is for you as the parent, the important thing is that your teenager needs your support.
Communication during a time when emotions are running high is difficult but is essential. Try to place yourself in their shoes, how do you think they feel? Scared, confused, worried? Trying to respond rather than react can often lead to more rational communication and help the relationship through a difficult situation. As a parent, you have the right to feel however it is that you feel but the same also applies to your daughter. Trying to remain as calm as possible will help and seeking medical advice at an early stage will also be beneficial.
Although home pregnancy testing can be accurate, it can also produce incorrect results. Having the pregnancy confirmed by a medical professional as soon as possible would be advisable. Your child is then able to talk about choices and their effects at the time and in the future.
For further information please visit the family Information Service “Expecting a Baby” website:
In addition and specifically for girls, please visit this website:
For specific information to support boys, please visit these websites:
Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, transsexual… these are the most commonly used terms used to describe a person’s sexual feelings towards others. However, this does not mean that a person must give themselves a definition or label as sexual feelings can change and are a very personal thing. Some people are very clear about their feelings whereas others are not. For more information please visit these websites:
For more information on services visit: