Monday, September 13, 2010

The Youngsters Need to Know

Someone asked if a girl can get pregnant by her brother. Some of the person’s friends told her no while others told her yes.

Although not explicitly stated, this is probably a minor who has engaged in sex with an opposite-gender sibling, and is genuinely concerned. Most of the replies I saw were the standard ignorant, prejudiced responses, including the ever-popular “kids will be deformed” nonsense.

However, one reply came from someone named Natalie Underwood, who seems to be a too-rare voice of reason and understanding in these sorts of forums…

There is nothing about being brother and sister that would prevent her from getting pregnant from him. The fact that his genes are similar to hers can actually increase the likelihood she will catch slightly – similar body enzymes and chemistry may mean a smaller chance of miscarriage or immune rejection.

Genes being related does not mean that they “cancel out”.

It means they reinforce each other.

By the way, everybody is saying birth defects – the truth, according to a ground-breaking study done by the Genetic Counseling association, is that siblings or similarly close relatives would have only about a 7 to 9 percent higher risk of having children with serious birth defects than average.

This can happen sometimes if there is a hidden gene defect in family history – and if both the brother and sister inherited the same defect, then they would have about a 1 in 4 chance of passing it on to their child. But not all brothers and sisters have the same recessive genes, not all families have a genetic defect in their family history, not all defects are serious, and most are treatable.

The odds are that most children of siblings would be fine – 87-89 percent.

These pregnancies do happen – sometimes girls get taken advantage of by selfish brothers (or vice versa) or they like to experiment together, or sometimes siblings don’t even know each other, but are sexually attracted when they meet after being separated.

Most sexual abuse and rape is by someone the victim knows, especially family.

One in 19 girls will have been approached for sex by a family member by the time she is college age, and a great deal of the sexual experimentation in early puberty happens within families.

If she does get pregnant, she should visit her doctor and have tests done for some of the more common problems, but she should not be alarmed that her baby will turn out to have three heads or something silly. She won’t have to tell anybody who the father is if she doesn’t want to.

Thanks, Ms. Underwood, if you are reading this. Do you have a blog? Would you like to contribute to mine?

Any pubescent child should be told that anytime any male a female are involved in activity in which his sperm gets near her vagina, she can get pregnant, provided she has functioning ovaries. Even if they don’t see semen, if there is any just inside the tip of of the penis or any that has emerged from the penis, this is a possibility. If they engage in such behavior, they need to take precautions. And children who are younger than that should be told that it is NOT OK for anyone to touch them when they don't want them to.
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