Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Public services all in one place

Main menu

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Talking to your child about sex and teenage pregnancy

Young people who can talk about sex with their parents tend to delay having sex and are more likely to use contraception when they do. However you may find the idea slightly awkward, or you may not know where to start. Here are some tips to help you on your way.

Can't see the video?


To play this video you need Adobe Flash Player version 9 or higher on your computer and have JavaScript enabled on your browser. Our Help with video files page gives advice if you are unsure how to do this. The Flash software is free.

Talking to children about sex

Talking about sex to your child doesn’t mean you are encouraging them to have sex. The best way to start talking about sex is to:

  • start when your child is young, as waiting until your child reaches puberty can make it awkward
  • make talking about sex a part of everyday life, not just a one-off talk and keep the conversation going as they get older
  • use everyday media to start conversations - soaps, adverts, TV programmes, magazines - then you can talk about other people which is sometimes easier to start with
  • use books, leaflets and websites (including those listed below) if you need information or ideas for how to start talking
  • recognise that as your child grows, they need privacy and may not always want to talk to you
  • talk to other parents about how they answer difficult questions and discuss difficult issues

Talking about sex and pregnancy with teenagers

You may want to talk to your teenager about a number of things to do with sex and pregnancy. These might include waiting to have sex, contraception, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the effects of having a child while they are still at school. There are many ways you can help:

  • find out what education they are getting in school about sex and relationships
  • provide them with information and advice on the subjects not covered at school
  • offer to go with your teenager to the doctor or sexual health clinic to discuss any issues about contraception
  • make sure they know about STIs, and know how to stay safe
  • support your teenager as they deal with the emotions of a first intimate relationship
  • talk about the importance of considering the feelings of others in relationships, and not just the biology

You may find that your teenager does not have the same values as you when it comes to sex. Try not to let this bother you - it's just a normal part of them growing up.

If your child is pregnant

If your child tells you that they are pregnant or that their girlfriend is pregnant, the most important thing to do is stay calm. You will need to support the teenage mother in whatever decisions she makes.

The first step is for the teenager to see her doctor or young people's service. They will confirm the pregnancy and tell her about services in the area for pregnant teenagers. Hospitals and health visitors often have services for teenage mothers beyond the routine antenatal care that will be offered. Some services - like Brook - also have counsellors who will be able to explore how she feels about her pregnancy and give impartial information on her options.


There is no reason why your daughter cannot remain in school up until the birth and then return to school afterwards. A maximum of 18 weeks absence is allowed in the period immediately before and after the birth.

However, your daughter may not want to attend her school once she finds out that she is pregnant. There are alternative options, like attending a specialist unit for teenage mothers (if there is one in your area), home tuition, or studying in a further education college. The education department of your local council will be able to help.

If your child is under 20, they could also get help with childcare costs through the Care to Learn scheme to help them stay on in learning after they have given birth.

Your rights, and your child's rights

Health professionals will always encourage sexually active young people to talk to their parents about their situation. However, young people have the same rights as adults when it comes to confidentiality. This means that a doctor does not have to tell parents when a young person seeks contraception or sexual health advice and treatment.

In some cases, health professionals may decide to refer a case to social services. This might happen if there is a large age difference between the two people involved, or if there is evidence of abuse. When dealing with cases involving younger teenagers, it will often be decided that there is a risk of harm and social services will be called.

Rights of the father

According to current law, a mother always has parental responsibility for her child. A father, however, has this responsibility only if he is married to the mother or has acquired legal responsibility for his child. There are several different ways for a father to get legal responsibility for their child like registering or re-registering the birth, or applying through the courts.

Information and support for parents

For further information and confidential advice call Parentline Plus free on 0808 800 2222. There's also a free textphone service on 0800 783 6783 for people with speech or hearing impairments. The Family Planning Association (FPA) can also provide information and advice. Helpline: 0845 310 1334.

Useful contacts

Additional links

Simpler, Clearer, Faster

Try GOV.UK now

From 17 October, GOV.UK will be the best place to find government services and information

Access keys

If you would like to take part in our website visitor survey, please visit the site and then come back and select this link to take part in the survey.