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Birth control facts for teens

December 20, 2022

Primary Care Women's Health Parenting
choosing method of contraception

If you’re a teen who’s thinking about becoming sexually active, it’s time to consider which birth control option may be best for you. 

“Before you engage in sexual activity, take time to educate yourself about the pros and cons of all the pregnancy prevention options available to you,” says Jamie King, M.D., a family medicine physician with Riverside Elizabeth Lakes Family Practice.

Speaking with your health care provider

Some teens may find it difficult or embarrassing to ask questions about birth control options with their parents in the room. If you need to request birth control guidance, let your health care provider know you’d like to arrange some private one-on-one time to talk during your exam.

“Birth control counseling is a routine part of my visits with adolescents,” Dr. King says. “I’m always happy to talk with teens to answer any questions they may have about their sexual health, including options for preventing pregnancy and STDs.”

Weighing your options

When considering which birth control option may be best for you, consider their cost, availability, ease of use, side effects and effectiveness.

  • Male condoms
    Pros: Affordable and easily accessible without a prescription; can prevent spread of STDs; offers male partner a role in pregnancy prevention.
    Cons: Not as effective at preventing pregnancy as other methods of birth control; single use only.

  • Birth control pill
    Types:
     progesterone only, estrogen and progesterone combination
    Pros:
    Available in a variety of hormone formulations – including some that can improve acne and lessen period severity – so your physician can match your prescription to your body’s needs.
    Cons:
    Must take daily. Missing more than one pill per month may increase risk of pregnancy. Does not prevent against STDs.

  • Long-acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) 
    Types:
    progesterone or copper IUD, etonogestrel implant
    Pros:
    Highly effective at preventing pregnancy; useful for years at a time; can be removed when you’re ready to become pregnant.
    Cons:
    Does not protect against STDs.  May worsen ovarian cysts (hormonal IUD and implant). May increase menstrual pain and bleeding (copper IUD).

  • Birth control patch
    Pros: May apply one patch for 3 weeks.
    Cons: Does not protect against STDs. Localized skin reactions are common, there may be problems with the patch adhering.

  • Vaginal ring
    Pros: May insert one ring for 3 weeks.
    Cons: Does not protect against STDs. Patients must be able to insert for themselves, may not fit all patients comfortably.

  • Injectable (medroxyprogesterone acetate)
    Pros: Injection every 3 months.
    Cons: Risk of low bone density, effects may be increased with prolonged use.  Weight gain, acne, and headache can be common side effects. Does not protect against STDs.

While some teens may opt for the pill or condoms simply because they are familiar with them, it may be worth talking to your health care provider about the advantages of a long-lasting IUD or implant.

Both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics have endorsed LARCs as a first-line contraceptive choice for teens – thanks, in part, to their ease of use and high rate of effectiveness. 

“Outside of abstinence – which is, of course, 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, LARCs offer the highest birth control effectiveness, at 99 percent,” Dr. King says.

Nexplanon, a rod-shaped implant that’s inserted into a woman’s upper arm, is effective for up to five years. Meanwhile, hormonal IUD devices such as Mirena, Kyleena or Skyla work for three to seven years, while the hormone-free Paragard IUD can be used for as long as 12 years. Each can be removed at any time.

If you’re considering becoming sexually active, talk with your health care provider to learn about the option that will be the best fit for you.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Jamie King to discuss your options today.

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