Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Myth of the Super Sperm

Over the past week, I went skiing with a group of adult friends.  Everyone there was part of a couple, some married, and others, like myself, in a long term, committed relationship, and no one with children above the age of six.  We went out and had a wonderful time on the slopes, speeding down steep hills, one turn away from a total wipe-out, going until our legs wobbled on the skis.

Back at the cabin for dinner, the conversations covered many funny and incredibly awkward topics, as you would expect with a mostly MALE group.  One of my fellow skiers started to tell a story about how his nephew came to be…that even though his sister was on birth control and she and her partner had used a condom, she had still gotten pregnant.  “That can only mean one thing” he said,  “the guy has Super Sperm”.  Ummm-What? I had to stop him right there. 

I explained about user error and failure rates of birth control and condoms, as the group looked at me with a mixture of confusion and nervousness (“OMG-you don’t think she’s gonna do a condom demo, do you?”)  Come to find out, his sister took her birth control pills like you and I take Tic-Tacs.  And they were using condoms that he had in his car…which, in South Carolina, is sure to get above the recommended temperature for condoms.  “But wait,” I told him, “you didn’t admit all of this in your original story.  I had to dig for it.  What if you had been telling this to a teen that was thinking about becoming sexually active.  They would think that birth control and condoms can fail without warning, for no reason, so why use them.”  Admittedly, he said that when he told this story, he didn’t “ID” people, but he had never thought about it like that. That’s the thing, we young adults, in our committed relationships, without teenagers…we don’t think about how our funny stories can affect those young people who might be listening. 

I know I was the ski party pooper that night (“Right, so now that that’s done, who wants another plate of spaghetti…”), but I hope that all of my friends realized how they should be talking positively about condoms and contraceptives, which they continue to use in their lives, so that teens around them can learn about the truth, instead of myths about the “Super Sperm”.

Monday, February 25, 2013

February is National Condom Month!

Condoms are cool! An entire month is dedicated to how awesome they are (so there must be some truth behind that, right?!).

Here are my top 3 reasons you should use a condom:

  1. You’re in love, but not ready to have a family. Condoms help you control your plan for a family. 
  2. You don’t want (or you don’t want your partner to get) cervical cancer. Some strains (there are over 100!) of the human papillomavirus (also known as HPV) can lead to genital warts and even cervical cancer. 
  3. You’re not ready for a lifelong commitment. If you become infected with HIV, you’ll not only have a lifelong commitment to the disease (costing more than a half-million dollars!), you’ll also have a lifelong date with your doctor and your pharmacist. Read more here.

Pretty convincing, huh?

Here’s my best advice for your newly discovered condom-loving self.  
  • Always check the condom’s expiration date. 
  • Never open the condom wrapper with your teeth (it might sound sexy, but a positive pregnancy test a month later…not so sexy!). 
  • Thinking lubricant might add some fun? Choose a water-based lubricant (DO NOT USE: petroleum jelly, vegetable oil, whip cream, chocolate sauce, cheese whiz or any other non-water-based lubricant!). 
  • Do not store condoms in your glove compartment. Condoms should not be exposed to high levels of heat (hello summer time in South Carolina!). Store condoms in a cool, dry place (like the infamous sock drawer!). 
  • Do not carry condoms in your wallet (the wear and tear your wallet can have on delicate condoms can create a messy situation later). 
  • Never re-use a condom (recycling is good…but NOT for condoms!). 
  • One condom is all you need (do not double up on condoms. The friction will cause them to rip!). 
  • While two condoms are not better than one, pairing a contraceptive method (dual protection) with a condom is always best! Check out the contraceptive comparison tool on CarolinaTeenHealth.org to help choose which is best for you! 
  • For more guidance, watch this super cute video, Condom Sense. 
  • Always follow the 9 steps (can you believe there are NINE STEPS?!) for using a condom.

Remember – condoms are cool!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oh, the irony!: So-called fan throws a bottle at Rihanna to protest her relationship with Chris

My heart has been heavy as I watch Rihanna and Chris Brown try to find their way as young adults, as entertainers, and, yes, as a couple.  Rihanna has accepted Chris back and chosen to forgive him for the horrendous attack she suffered after their violent argument in February 2009.  According to a recent report from the Huffington Post, in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Rihanna admitted that she understood her decision to take Brown back into her life would upset others. "Even if it's a mistake, it's my mistake," she said. "After being tormented for so many years, being angry and dark, I'd rather just live my truth and take the backlash. I can handle it."

We should never condone violence or sit idly by as a young woman walks back into an abusive situation.  Back in 2009, however, I saw this incident clearly as an opportunity to honestly and openly discuss the need for girls AND guys to learn more about healthy relationships.  Co-dependence, exposure to and acceptance of violence, verbal abuse, control, and manipulation are all a part of the vicious cycle of abuse and ALL of these issues should be a part of our public and professional discourse regarding dating and domestic abuse. 

This sad event in pop culture is definitely a teachable moment for dating violence prevention and provides a very clear lesson for young people in abusive relationships.  But, to relegate this situation to a mere game of gender wars or an excuse to single one entertainer out is really setting up our young people for danger and only making this situation worse.  Calling Rihanna names and treating her like an outcast only pushes her closer to Chris.  Calling Chris a “thug” and screaming at him via social media as if you know him does not make him listen or force him to truly grow up and stop making the same mistakes – it only adds to the confusion and the noise.  The reality is that our young people are watching adults get sucked into a media-driven spectacle, while, for many of them, their real-life experiences with violence on all levels is all consuming.  Instead of watching me be hateful toward two entertainers that I don’t know, I want my son, my nieces and nephews, and other mentees, to see me being thoughtful, deliberate, and careful in how I discuss healthy behavior in relationships.  When the media flashes images of Rihanna and Chris, this is our opportunity to teach and model for impressionable young people – not to rant.

None of us have all of the answers, and I could not promise that my reactions would be calm or thoughtful if any of the young people in my family were ever a victim of dating violence.  But one thing is for sure in this situation – throwing stuff at Rihanna and publicly scolding her for taking Chris back is NOT helpful.  It’s just blaming the victim.  According to the same Huffington Post report, “the 24-year-old singer was attacked outside of the Box nightclub in London Monday morning, when a heckler threw an energy drink bottle at the star.”  We can be angry, confused, and aggravated about her decision.  Her close friends and family can continue to warn her and express their concern.  BUT, especially for those of us who are just onlookers, does it make sense to verbally or even physically (as in this case) assault these entertainers in order to protest the violent act by Chris?  

by Kimberly Wicker, Outreach and Development Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day...

Valentine's Day is a special day for folks, and it is no different for the SC Campaign family!  Check out some Facebook posts about this special day from some of the SC Campaign staff!

Sarah Kershner shows her love for her "fur babies" on this day of hugs and KISSES!

Kimberley Wicker's son, Landen, wanted to make sure everything was ready to go for his Valentine's Day party at school...at 4 o'clock in the morning.  Too cute!

Graduate Assistant, Sara Lamberson, "LIKES" the goodies she got from a special someone!

Being the creative person she always is in the office, Cayci Banks makes special treats for her son's preschool classmates!  So cute!

So from us to you, we hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day and that you share your love with your family and friends!

The SC Campaign Family

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Big Announcement

Three years ago, my husband Charlie and I were blessed with an 8 lb bundle of energy - our first son Lucas, and now we are blessed to be adding to our family once again.  Baby Banks #2 is set to arrive in early August - yes, I know, the hottest time of the year to have a baby - this thought has already crossed my mind - several times.  I have already told my co-workers that they may not see me the last week or so of July because it will just be too hot for this pregnant girl to leave her house!
We shared our exciting news with our closest friends and family over the Holidays, which made for a very special Christmas, but also wanted to share the news with our larger circle of friends once I was nearing the end of the first trimester.  Making a big announcement like “I’m engaged or “we’re pregnant” has changed with the evolution of technology.  Five years ago, we would have spent countless hours on the phone calling everyone in our address book; fast forward to 2013 and with one click of a button we shared our special news with hundreds of people via social media.  And then the likes, comments, and phone calls began.  In total, the photo I posted of Lucas in his Big Brother t-shirt received more than 220 likes and 36 comments.  To be clear, we felt very loved!

I write this because I think it is important to understand the impact that social media has on our culture, our work, and our lives.  It is not a fad or a trend that will disappear – it is the wave of the future.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this video – the Social Media Revolution, which was updated earlier this year.

As the video says, “We don’t have a choice whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it.”    

by Cayci Banks, Director of Communications, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hold onto your pearls...Polly gets personal!

Those that know me know I can be passionate about the issue of teen pregnancy, especially logic models, service learning and access to contraception, but now that I am a mother, my passion has had a new awakening.

After my first daughter Ella was born, my respect for teen moms tripled. I remember the day we brought her home and the terrifying feelings I felt just holding my newborn—the baby I had prayed for my whole life. The fear, worry, anxiety and nerves unraveled me to the point of developing a horrible rash that lasted 16 weeks. My mom was with me, “oohing and aahing” over her fifth grandbaby and so excited for her daughter who she had been praying would get pregnant for over a year. My husband Josh held me tight and fought me over holding his baby girl and was adamant he could handle the all nighters. We were forever changed as individuals and as a couple on September 29th. It was hard, and for those of you with kids, you know just how hard. For those of you without, words cannot express exactly what it was like. Only the grace of God and our commitment to God has kept us together. There have been days when I have never loved or hated Josh more (all in one day).

My baby was wanted, planned and prayed for. My pregnancy was celebrated and received with great pride. I was not alone and my husband has been my teammate and best friend for every tear cried, every steam shower at 2 am, every motor skill milestone where we cheer like it’s the Super Bowl, every moment of pride when we realize our kids are loving and polite. We teach constantly; behavior, sign language, colors, reading, numbers, phonics, potty time, sharing, art, pretend play, motor skills. It is the most challenging thing I have ever done and everyday it is my commitment to not let parenting “break me”. I can’t imagine having this experience unplanned or alone.

When Ella was just over a year we found out we were pregnant again. Not planned and yes, every colleague of mine is gasping for air right now. I confess, I was not trying to get pregnant so soon after Ella! I know how to prevent pregnancy; I have spent 13 years preventing unplanned pregnancies, however, life is not simple. Carrying a 10 lb baby and toting a 2 ½ year old, I literally thought I was going to die. I even wrote a letter to Ella telling her I wasn’t going to make it. The exhaustion was overwhelming and yet again, as an individual and couple we were forever changed. The “oohs and aahs” and “I can handle the all nighters” were gone. Baby Wren is adored and loved, but the excitement from others is not the same. She has been a challenge since she was born, and I can’t wait to see this little mama as an adult one day.

Some of you may be “grasping your pearls” (as my friend Rena would say) at this point, feeling I have exposed too much or been too honest about my parenting experience. However, every time I hear 6,024 gave birth in 2011 and almost 30% will become a parent twice; I cringe and in a different way than before I had kids. Only a parent can understand what these girls will face. They are not bad parents; they are overwhelmed parents, oftentimes without support from a loving partner or their families. Don’t get me wrong, families can be supportive, but the experience is different and the support is never enough to bring back the innocence and fun of their adolescent years. Reality will soon set in that the responsibility of teacher, mother, nurse, cook, breadwinner, caretaker, and partner all falls on their shoulders. Some will say, “Well her mom will take care of the baby”. My response to that is always, “how would you feel if your mom took care of your baby?” Like a failure as a mom? Like you have failed your family? Like you lost your baby to your mother? Who do you want your baby to cry for? No matter the age, the answer is YOU!

In my field I despise the comment, “Didn’t she learn her lesson the first time.” I could go on for days about how this comment is idiotic. However, I assume for most readers of this blog, I would just be preaching to the choir. Programs like Nurse Family Partnership, Second Chance and Birth Outcomes are needed for first time moms, and one of their key approaches is to educate and counsel on contraception. Unfortunately, these resources are very limited in our state and only serve a very small group of teen moms. Life is not simple, often birth control is far down the list of priorities and we moms have been there; forget a pill, miss a doctor’s appointment, forget what day it is to take out the ring, and the list goes on. It’s not that we are trying to get pregnant, but we often forget about ourselves because our children and surviving are the priorities.

What is the point, Polly? There is a light at the end of this tunnel: better technologies and better access. One of my biggest frustrations in my field is lack of awareness of how far we have come in South Carolina around methods and access for teens. DHEC in SC is amazing and prioritizes the teen patient; the best in the business when it comes to reproductive health! They work hard to educate and counsel young women in Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC). These contraception options are new, cutting edge and highly effective. According to national and state data, young women know very little if anything about LARC nor that they have the right to access confidential reproductive health care. And unfortunately most young women’s first visit to DHEC is for a pregnancy test not contraception. One of my favorite quotes comes from Sarah Brown CEO of the National Campaign, “Respect Life: Use Birth Control.” I can’t agree more!

At the SC Campaign, we continue to work to remove barriers for teens to be able to obtain 3 to 5 year birth control methods (including access during postpartum care in the hospital). Inter Uterine Devices (IUD) and implants are the newest technologies and aren’t your moms’ old methods. Educate yourself, talk to the young women in your life and help them plan for the greatest experience of their life!

by Polly Edwards-Padgett, Senior Program Advisor, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy