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Skills for Youth

All Skills for Youth

Getting Contraception

Introduction

Many pregnancy prevention programs provide teens with important information about a variety of contraceptive methods. But most programs stop short of teaching teenagers how to actually access contraception. Many youth, as well as adults, avoid going to a health care provider or clinic to get contraception because they don't know what to expect. The youth skill presented here helps young people find out what to expect when they go to a family planning clinic to get contraception.

This youth skill covers three important steps involved in getting contraceptives:

  1. Step #1: Call a clinic to find out what contraceptive options are available and how to get them,

  2. Step #2: Plan how to get to a clinic, and

  3. Step #3: Get information to help make a decision about which method of contraception is best.

Two worksheets are also included with this youth skill:


Step #1: Call a clinic to find out what contraceptive options are available and how to get them

There are many questions that a young person will want to ask clinic staff before visiting. This activity gives youth an opportunity to practice using the phone to get information about clinic services and to prepare themselves for an upcoming visit (Step #3). Before making any calls, it's best to have youth brainstorm all the questions that may be answered over the phone. These questions might include:

  • What contraceptive methods are available for teens at the clinic? (e.g. Condoms, pills)

  • What is the procedure (e.g. required exam or consultation) for getting these methods?

  • Are male and female health care providers available?

  • Can a friend, partner or family member accompany you on your appointment?

  • What are the costs involved and acceptable methods of payment?

  • What types of insurance are accepted?

  • What is the clinic's policy for client confidentiality? (Most states have laws that clinics can't disclose information about clients without written consent, including whether or not a client visits the clinic.)

  • What is the clinic schedule (e.g., days and hours the clinic is open)?

  • How long does it take to get an appointment?

  • How long does an appointment usually take?

  • Are follow-up appointments necessary?

  • Where is the clinic located?

Calling more than one clinic may also be a good idea so that youth can compare available services, costs, relative convenience of location, and teen friendliness. Have one or more telephone directories with yellow pages for youth to look through to find the clinic section in their local area. Note resources including public health clinics, school-based/linked clinics, community health clinics, and Planned Parenthood clinics, which usually offer family planning services, reasonable costs and/or services especially designed for teens.

Ideally, you should pre-select at least three conveniently located clinics from which youth can choose. If there are only one or two from which to choose, have the youth do some of this activity in groups of two or three in order to control the number of youth contacting each clinic. It is also a good idea to contact the clinics beforehand to explain the activity and elicit their participation in the exercise. You may also want to clarify the answers to some of the questions during your pre-lesson contacts with clinics.

For a handy checklist of information to gather when calling a clinic, see the Visit or Call a Clinic Worksheet.

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Step #2: Plan how to get to a clinic

To get to a clinic, teens often need access to transportation. Whether they drive themselves or use other means of transportation, they should have a plan for how to get there. This step helps youth plan their way to the clinic, using a bus, train, car, or bike or going on foot.

Once youth have identified which clinic they want to visit, they can figure out the route to get there. Having the phone number and address of the clinic is a good place to start. Calling the clinic (as described in Step #1) is usually a good way to get directions. But when clinic staff are not helpful with directions, having youth plot their route can be a confidence-building exercise. In some locations, it is best to access a map so the youth can plan the route from their homes or schools to the clinic. Web sites like mapquest or yahoo.maps can also be helpful for not only marking a route but also getting step-by-step directions from specific locations.

The teens can then decide what means of transportation will work best for them. If they use a bus or train, they may need to find out:

  • Which bus/train to catch, including its number or name;

  • Where to get on the bus/train;

  • Whether or not they will need to transfer (and if so, where);

  • Where they will get off the bus/train; and

  • How far they will have to walk from the last bus/train stop to the clinic.

If youth decide to use a car or bike, or if they decide to walk, they should be able to describe the route they will take to the clinic. This may mean writing down all street names and freeway numbers and which way to turn along the way. If there are landmarks that cue turns (like a fast food restaurant, gas station or park), these can also be written down. Again, a map with the destination and route marked will be especially helpful to have on hand as well as the address and phone number of the clinic.

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Step #3: Get information to help make a decision about which method of contraception is best

Remind youth that clinics are professional places and that they should use their best behavior. Also remind them that they should keep to themselves the names of anyone (i.e. other patients) they happen to see at the clinic.

Once at the clinic, teens may feel more comfortable if they have prompts to guide their process and determine the questions they will ask. You can create a worksheet for them to organize the information they collect or use the How Will You Avoid Pregnancy? Worksheet. Tell the youth that the worksheet will help them review and personalize the information that they will collect. Explain that this kind of worksheet should be for their use only. It should not be used for group discussion and should not be reviewed by anyone or turned in to the teacher or facilitator.

The following are suggested questions to include on the worksheet:

  • Which contraceptive method(s) would you like to know more about?

  • How will you find out about these methods? (e.g., pamphlet, internet, video, counselor)

  • Which method seems most convenient and appropriate for your needs?

  • How much does it cost? Can you afford it?

  • Which method has the fewest side effects that worry you?

  • Which methods are effective enough for you?

  • Which methods will also provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

  • Which method do you think your boyfriend/girlfriend will be most interested in using?

  • Which method would your parent(s) be most likely to approve?

To help you reach a conclusion, show which methods seem best for you by circling the numbers below and noting your reasons:

Method

Best Choice

Okay Choice

Worst Choice

Reason/Notes

Abstinence

1

2

3

 

Condoms

1

2

3

 

Diaphragm/ Cervical Cap

1

2

3

 

The Pill

1

2

3

 

Injectables

1

2

3

 

Sponge

1

2

3

 

The Patch

1

2

3

 

Vaginal ring

1

2

3

 

IUD

1

2

3

 

IUS

1

2

3

 

Under-the-skin implant

1

2

3

 

Other:

1

2

3

 

Tell the youth to look for and bring back some literature available from the clinic. This could be pamphlets or flyers that describe the services available.

In some communities, individual visits to a clinic may not be practical because of distance, the limited availability of clinics, or teens' concerns about confidentiality. Some clinics may also be unwilling to receive so many phone calls from youth. Since person-to-person contact with health care providers is especially important, it may be better to consider alternative activities, which include:

  1. Inviting a clinic representative to come to speak to the group. The speaker could present to the youth, describe what happens at the clinic, explain the contraceptive methods available, and answer questions. A visiting clinic staff member might help youth think of the clinic as more "teen-friendly." If there is time and teacher/facilitator assistance, role play practice could also be incorporated into the session.

  2. Taking a field trip to the clinic. Some clinics may be willing to host youth in small groups, if the large group can be split into appropriately sized groups. Field trips would take some planning, but this activity has the advantage of ensuring that teens actually visited a clinic. Clinic staff may be willing to lead the field trip.

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Summary

Remind youth that knowing where to go, how to get there, and how to get the best contraception are important aspects of responsible sexual behavior. Explain that you realize they may not need this information yet, but they will most likely need it at some point in their lives. They may also know someone who needs the information now.

Tell the youth that a person-to-person visit to talk to a health care provider is the best resource for information about contraception. The visit also prepares them to get and use contraception as soon as they are ready to have sex, not after.

This youth skill was adapted from the curriculum Reducing the Risk: Building Skills to Prevent Pregnancy, STD & HIV written and published by ©ETR Associates, 1996. For more information about this curriculum and other related materials, call 1-800-321-4407.