Questions about women's reproductive issues aren't always easy to answer, and the issues get more complicated when it comes to young girls with developmental disabilities.
We take care to make sure our kids are as safe as possible, but the statistics are startling: According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 50-80 percent of women with disabilities experience sexual violence in their lifetime. When a young girl gets her period for the first time, then, and questions arise about birth control, there’s more to consider than whether or not your daughter plans to be sexually active.
Here, some information to consider before her next doctor visit.
Should my daughter get the HPV vaccine?
Human papillomavirus vaccines, such as Gardasil, help protect both girls and boys from HPV infection and cancer caused by HPV. Two HPV vaccines protect girls from the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancer. One HPV vaccine also helps protect both girls and boys from anal cancer and genital warts. HPV vaccines are given to preteens (ages 11-12) as three shots over six months; all three shots are needed for full protection. "I would recommend it for all children," says Toni Lyn Salvatore, M.D., a pediatrician at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut. "How often can you get a vaccine against cancer?"
What are the options for birth control?
Besides preventing unwanted pregnancy, contraceptive medication is useful in getting your daughter’s period on a reliable schedule, Dr. Salvatore says. This can ease the stress around the issue and help parents and child better prepare for the physical and hormonal changes that come with it each month.
If your child is unable to take an oral contraceptive, or if you're interested in learning about a birth control choice that will delay your child's menstruation, ask your doctor about injectable options such as Lupron and Depo-Provera.
Are there any risks to my child taking birth control?
If you opt for a birth control option that delays or pauses your child's menstruation, make sure it’s under the care of a gynecologist, Dr. Salvatore says. "Women get their period because they need to shed the uterine lining. It's important that the menses occur—the point is not to stop it but to teach a child how to take care of it."
Where can I turn for help?
"Don't be afraid to ask health care providers these questions," Dr. Salvatore says. "It's something you're not going to find on the Internet—other than maybe in support groups—but it's important to have the discussion."
10-Point Checklist to Prepare for Your Daughter's First Period