Saturday 21 April 2018

Dear Dr Jennifer: Is contraception appropriate for my intellectually disabled child?

"I worry about her sex education and the thought of her getting pregnant."
Dr Jennifer Grant, a GP with the Beacon HealthCheck screening programme at Beacon Hospital.

Dr Jennifer Grant

Dear Doctor, My daughter has an intellectual disability and has never been held back by this. She's pretty independent and we are considering her living outside the home.

She's never had a boyfriend but now has a job and has always attended a lot of supervised social outings and activities.

If we do help her live away from home, I worry about her sex education and the thought of her getting pregnant. Is it a good idea to get her some kind of birth control?

Answer: The first point to make is that you feel she is capable of living independently and looking after herself. This is an important point because I assume, from your comments, that her level of disability is mild and, therefore, her comprehension of sexual health may be quite reasonable.

That being the case, then it would be appropriate that she attend a facility like the IFPA (Irish Family Planning Association) for a refresh of her sexual health education.

Education alone will provide her with knowledge and ownership over her personal life, which she may find empowering. Good sexual health behaviours are important to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy.

If contraception is deemed necessary, then perhaps a long-acting reversible contraceptive (an intra-uterine device, injection or subdermal implant) could be considered.

I recommend a detailed consultation with her doctor who would take her personal preference and medical history into consideration.

'is contraception appropriate for my intellectually disabled child?

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