According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, 47% of all high school students reported having had sexual intercourse. This statistic is a scary thought for most parents.
Although discussions about sex and contraception are not easy, they are extremely important for parents to have with their teens since much of their “knowledge” in this area is misinformation that they hear from friends. There are many methods of birth control, but not all are ideal for teenagers and not all protect from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Each method has its own set of benefits and drawbacks so it is important to discuss these with your daughter and her health care provider before making a decision.
Here are five of the top contraceptive methods to consider for your teen:
1. CONTRACEPTIVE IMPLANT–99% EFFECTIVE
The implant is a thin, matchstick sized, flexible plastic implant placed under the skin of the upper inner arm. It releases hormones that control the ovaries release of eggs. Additionally, it causes changes in the cervix making sperm less effective.
Perks: Provides safe and very effective long-term birth control. Once it is placed, there is nothing to remember since it last for 3 years.
Drawbacks: Does not protect from STl’s. May cause changes in bleeding patterns, acne and appetite.
2. DEPO-PROVERA–94% EFFECTIVE
This is a shot given every 12 weeks so its good for teens who have difficulty remembering to take a pill every day. It keeps the ovaries from releasing eggs to help prevent pregnancy.
Perks: Teens will experience lighter periods and less cramping and many times, cycles will completely disappear due to the prolonged effect of the progesterone hormone. Additionally, it protects from endometrial cancer and anemia.
Drawbacks: Receiving the injection requires a trip to the doctor’s office every 3 months. Teens may experience weight gain and irregular bleeding the first couple of months. Depo-Provera does not protect against STl’s. It could also interfere with normal increases in bone density, but this is typically restored after discontinuing the shots.
3. CONTRACEPTIVE VAGINAL RING (NUVARING:) 91% EFFECTIVE
The NuvaRing is a small, flexible ring placed once a month by a girl, similar to a tampon. It works by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs similar to the other hormonal methods.
Perks: Acne may improve and periods and cramping will be lighter. This method is private and as easy to use as a tampon.
Drawbacks: The teen must remember to remove and place a new ring monthly for it to be effective at preventing pregnancy. It does not protect from STl’s.
4. BIRTH CONTROL PILLS: 91% EFFECTIVE
This is one of the most popular forms of birth control because of its effectiveness and ease of use. However, the teen must remember to take one pill at the same time each day for this method to be effective. It works on the ovaries similar to the above methods.
Perks: The teen will have lighter periods and cramping and acne usually improves. It also provides a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers and anemia.
Drawbacks: Similar to all the hormonal methods, teens can experience headaches and have a
slightly increased risk of blood clots, strokes and elevated blood pressures.
5. MALE CONDOM: 82% EFFECTIVE
The condom is a thin sheath of latex rubber worn by the male.
Perks: Available without a prescription, unlike the above methods. They typically are easy to use and are one of the only methods that protects both teens from STl’s. It can be used in combination with other forms of contraception for increased pregnancy prevention.
Drawbacks: It must be used correctly each time. Additionally, there is the risk of slipping or breaking which can increase pregnancy risks. Some people are allergic to latex and cannot use them.
According to a recent CDC report, teen pregnancies in the US are at an all-time low. The report shows adolescent birth rates are down from a peak of 61.8 births per 1000 in 1991 to 24.2 per 1000 in 2014.
The declines in the past decade have occurred in all regions and among all races. Most experts agree that this is the result of better access to contraception, and most importantly, because teens are having less sex after good discussions with their parents. For a full list of contraception options available, contact your health care provider.
By: Dr. Chimene Dahl, Billings OB-GYN Associates