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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 17:50 GMT 18:50 UK
Teenage myths about contraception
Emergency contraception
The "morning after" pill: As effective as coughing?
Some teenagers think Coca Cola and wrist watches are contraceptives.

A survey for Doctor magazine highlighted a worrying lack of understanding about contraception among UK teenagers.

The survey found many teenagers believed a bizarre range of myths and old wives' tales.

The lack of understanding could be one reason why teenage pregnancy rates are soaring in the UK.

One teenager was quoted as saying: "Putting a watch around your penis before sex means the radioactivity of the dial kills off sperm."

Teenage myths I
You can't get pregnant on a boat
You can't get pregnant if you drink a lot of milk
You get pregnant if you take folic acid
Keeping your eyes closed stops you getting pregnant
A boy is only fertile if his testicles feel cold
There's no risk if you're standing on a telephone directory
Others believed a Coca-Cola douche, standing on a telephone directory, or drinking a lot of milk would stop them getting pregnant.

Still more thought they could not get pregnant if they stayed upside down for two hours, coughed immediately after sex, or had sex in the bath, on a boat, or with their clothes on.

About 8,000 teenagers under 16 get pregnant every year in the UK, and rates of sexually transmitted infection in British teenagers are running at about 10%.

The myths were among those told to 2,200 GPs surveyed by the magazine.


It found 85% of GPs thought young people were not using effective contraception because they were too embarrassed to ask for advice.

But 70% believed ignorance was the problem, and 70% believed teenagers were worried their confidentiality would not be respected.

Teenage myths II
If you drink a lot of alcohol you won't get a girl pregnant
You can't get pregnant unless you have sex every night
Coke douches work and you can use crisp bags as condoms
You can't get pregnant if you don't have an orgasm
You can't get pregnant if you have sex in the bath
Phil Johnson, editor of Doctor, said GPs have a major part to play in helping teenagers understand sex and pregnancy.

He said: "Many GPs don't advertise the fact they offer a confidential service.

"There is no notice up about it; they don't train staff in it. They don't have a special leaflet for teenagers about it.

"Teenagers are not told that under 16s can get contraception."

Janine Jolly, senior development officer with the National Children's Bureau, told BBC News Online she was not surprised teenagers easily got confused.

"We live in a very sexualised society where teenagers are bombarded with images of sex," she said.

"But these are not necessarily educational and teenagers pick up a lot of mis-messages from gaining their information in this way".

'Too little, too late'

Ms Jolly said that on the bright side, the government's teenage pregnancy unit was aiming to tackle these "urban myths".

She said there were signs it was achieving some success by providing early-age, accurate education on sex and relationships in schools.

But Jan Barlow, chief executive of the charity Brook which deals with teenage sexual health issues, said adults were continuing to fail young people.

"Far too often young people tell Brook that the information they get about sex is too little, too late and it's too biological," she said.

"They need plain-speaking and impartial information so that they can make informed choices.

"It's time we nailed sex myths on the head with accurate information."

See also:

22 Mar 01 | Health
Drop in teenage pregnancies
08 Mar 01 | Health
Contraception fails UK youth
22 Feb 01 | Education
Breaking the cycle of teen pregnancy
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