Parents are an important trusted source for their children when it comes to health information and to prepare for developing healthy relationships and navigating challenges. Part of these discussions include sexual and reproductive health, and parents should be prepared with options and information.
Over the past decade, the percentage of high school-aged adolescents having sex has declined, however, 57% are sexually active by 12th grade. The most effective methods of birth control are obtained from a healthcare provider. There are several types of birth control.
There are many safe and effective birth control methods for adolescents who are sexually active or considering having sex. It can be difficult to accept your child is or wants to be sexually active, however, it is very important to ensure they are protected and know their options.
Birth Control Options
Long-acting reversible contraceptives or “LARC” methods
Including intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the hormonal implant. These methods are inserted by a healthcare provider and provide birth control for up to 3 to 10 years (depending on the method) without any required follow-up.
Short-acting hormonal methods
Including pills, mini-pills, the patch, the shot, and the vaginal ring. These methods are prescribed by a provider, and users must take action daily (pills), weekly (patch), monthly (ring), or every 3 months (shot) for them to work.
Including condoms, diaphragms, the sponge, and the cervical cap. These methods must be used each time someone has sex. A healthcare provider must initially fit a diaphragm and give a prescription for a cervical cap, but otherwise, these methods do not require a visit to the clinic.
How should adolescents choose a birth control method?
Information from parents and healthcare providers can help adolescents decide which birth control method is right for them. It is important to consider:
- How well does it work? Some birth control methods are more effective at preventing pregnancy than others. IUDs and implants are the most effective reversible methods currently available.
- Is it easy to use? Some methods are easier to use than others. For example, if it is hard to remember to take a pill every day, birth control pills may not be the best option.
- What are the possible side effects? A healthcare provider can explain potential side effects of methods and ensure that a method is safe given an adolescent’s overall health.
- Does it prevent STDs? Most contraceptive methods do not prevent STDs, so it is recommended that adolescents also always use condoms in addition to their primary birth control method for both STD and pregnancy prevention.
- How much does it cost? Most insurance plans, including Medicaid, fully cover most birth control methods. For those without health insurance, some clinics provide free or low-cost birth control.
What about birth control and STDs?
It’s important to ensure your adolescent knows that even if they are using another type of birth control, they should use a condom every time they have intercourse to reduce the risk of HIV and other STDs.
The Pediatric Center has a dedicated teen support center that can guide families in the right direction. Please be sure to schedule an appointment to review options with your teen.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)