Teen Pregnancy Prevention: Self-Respect Matters

09/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Teen pregnancy is on the rise: 3 out 10 girls get pregnant. And MTV's popular 16 and Pregnant is showing a lot of the struggles that come with the territory. Plus, more than 1/3 of all unplanned pregnancies occur to unmarried women in their 20s. And then there is the ongoing headlines still buzzing around the most famous teen mom of the day: Bristol P.

Preventing unplanned pregnancy is not just about having the "talks" about how babies are made, STDs and the perils of parenting without resources. Kids need to be supported--and invested in--on so many levels before the day even comes for those talks.

Based on my own risky journey with sex as a teen--and my mom being a 2x teen mom--to me a big part of the "solution" (there isn't one cure-all) comes down to boosting self-respect from many fronts. Imagine from age 0 that kids have a community, role models, school, organizations, family, friends and values around them that support the development of healthy self-respect. Well then risky choices become less of a risk factor, right?

This is where the Respect Basics come in. They are a worthy layer to add on to pregnancy prevention work. Through the Basics, you learn to envision the life you want and to set the boundaries you need to set to get there. You learn to build your confidence, communication skills and support network. And the people around teens (like me, their teachers and families) need to work the Basics too. It just sticks better that way. And teens need to teach the Basics to younger kids. It just flows better that way.

The thing is, the self-respect connection is not just true for kids and teens. Guess what? 20-somethings are getting "Knocked Up"--yep, unplanned just like the movie--at record rates too. More than 1.1 million unplanned pregnancies occur to unmarried women in their 20s and almost half of the nearly 19 million new sexually transmitted infections that occur each year affect 15- to 24-year-olds, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The org just launched, Sex.Really to spark more convos among 20-somethings about their sex lives and relationships.

In your 20's, you likely know how babies are made and that you can catch some nasty STD if you're not careful (and even if you are!). So to me (broken record) it really does come down to self-respect. How are you taking care of yourself and your needs? Are you speaking about said needs? These Respect Basics (trust your gut. set boundaries-speak up! know you're valuable.) need to be developed to prevent unplanned pregnancy, too.

When you have respect on the inside, you have the foundation to make choices that work for you--and you have the ability to recover and learn from mistakes, too. Mostly you are empowered to break the cycles that need to be broken for you to thrive. And this world needs you (teens and adults alike) to thrive.

More Resources
Also, check out The Campaign's Latina Initiative. It has created two new quizzes for teens in Spanish that are great to post on your websites. Quiz 1Quiz 2

More Respect Rx resources here.