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Should you be thinking about contraception for your teen?

September 21, 2015

Why is contraception important?

The simple answer- to prevent pregnancy. That is exactly why we need to have this discussion with teenagers. The statistics are astonishing about how many teens have been sexually active before they finish high school. Half of high school students report ever having had sexual intercourse and every year about 750,000 adolescents become pregnant. The majority of these pregnancies, a whopping 80%, are unplanned, which tells me that we need to do a better job giving our teenage population contraception.

What are the recommended contraception options?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) both recommend Long-Acting Reversible Contraception "LARCs" for adolescents. The LARC options include the implant and intrauterine devices (IUD).  Both of these options are safe and superior to the old-school daily pill. With either the implant or the IUD, our teens don't have to remember to take it every day, making it nearly foolproof. The implant is placed in the upper arm and feels like a two-inch long piece of spaghetti under the skin. The IUDs are inserted into the cervix and can be checked by feeling for the string inside the vagina. Both options last for years without needing to be replaced, which is another reason it is perfect for teens.

What about "the pill”?

There are other options, including the pill and the shot. The pill must be taken every day so when thinking of our teenage population and how hard it is for them to remember even to brush their teeth on a daily basis, this option is clearly not the best choice. The shot, Depo-Provera, is a good alternative but not many people are keen on getting a shot every three months.

See more detailed information on contraceptive options, here.

How do I talk about this with my teen?

Be proactive. Tell your teen to wait to have sex and when they are even thinking about sex (and maybe even before), it's time to get them contraception. Be sure they know that contraception prevents pregnancy, but many types of contraception can’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Convey your values to them, but also be aware that they may not choose to follow the same value system.

One simple way to talk to your teen about contraception is to partner with your pediatrician. When the pediatrician asks you to step out the room for a few minutes, it's to talk to your adolescent about sex, drugs, school, relationships, and whatever else happens to come up. Adolescents can also go to the doctor and ask for contraception even without a parent being present.

The bottom line

Many adolescents are sexually active, resulting in way too many unplanned pregnancies. The way to make sure that doesn't happen to your teen is to get them contraception. The best contraception for teens are the long-acting reversible contraception options including the implant and the intrauterine device. They are both safe and effective.

Talk to your pediatrician about the best option for your teen.