Doctor: Open Communication Can Prevent Teen Pregnancies

Published: .
Updated: .

One of the most controversial issues that parents and teenagers face is birth control.  But as one northeast Columbus family learned, the dangers of not talking about it can have lifelong implications.

Diona Griffin squeaked a toy for her 10-month-old daughter, Avery.  The baby flashed a grin and toddled toward a chair. Diona loves her daughter but became a mother sooner than she wished.  

She was 17, a senior at Gahanna-Lincoln High School, when she told her mother that she wanted to see a doctor about birth control. First, a nurse gave her a pregnancy test.

"They kicked my mom out of the room and they were like ‘Hey, look, you're pregnant.’  And I was like… started crying," Diona said.

She was fourteen weeks along. She previously had asked her mother, Dawn, about birth control.

"She wanted on it earlier, and I didn't want that to say, go have sex," Dawn said.  "She finally said, Mom, I need on birth control.  I'm having sex.  So, I took her to the doctor."

OhioHealth obstetrician, Dr. Stuart Jones, said that's a common worry and a tough topic for many parents.

"They would actually not want to bring the subject up. The fear is, if I put them on birth control, I'm giving them the green light to go ahead and become pregnant," Dr. Jones said. "And trying to convince dad that it's okay for daughter - that might be even a little harder than mom."

But the doctor said statistics show that parental permission for birth control is not a green light for teenagers to have sex; they will have sex with or without parental approval.

He said numbers show that births to teenagers have fallen every year since 1991, and now are half what they were a dozen years ago.  But the obstetrician still delivers babies for young mothers, and knows they face a host of complications that older mothers often don't.

The doctor listed them. "Elevated blood pressures, kidney involvement, liver involvement.  We also see more risk of pre-term labor, depression, anemia."

Diona is fine and so is Avery. But having a baby in the house was a big adjustment both for Diona, and for Dawn, who has two younger teenagers still at home.

"I'm not used to that because my kids have been in school for a long time," Dawn said. "I had to learn everything all over again. But it came easy to me after that."

Dawn, her husband, and kids all discussed the unplanned pregnancy.  Diona got a job in a fast food restaurant to help support herself and Avery. Dawn watched the baby while Diona worked.

"I'm a stay at home mom.  I go to work, come home, take care of her.  And I get one day a weekend,” added Diona.

Her life is very different from a year ago.

"I lost a bunch of friends because I got pregnant and they're like ‘Oh, you have a kid now.’ And it's like I can't hang out with them all the time.  So they've pretty much walked out of my life."

She's on birth control now.  It's something Dr. Jones discusses with all teen moms after delivery, since one out of five teens soon will have a second baby.  He offers long-term, reversible options to the pill, including arm implants and IUD's.

"Ninety-one percent of teen moms will go on a birth control pill after delivery. Only 22 percent stay on it, or are on the best form that they could have," Dr. Jones said.

He urged parents to talk to their kids on this and other issues.

""I just keep pushing open communication," he said.

Dr. Jones also urges teen mothers to stay in school.  Numbers from the Ohio Department of Health show that only 38 percent of teen mothers earn a high school diploma by age 22.

Diona is waiting to hear if she passed the Ohio Graduation Test.  Her goal is to be trained as a pharmacy technician.