Birth control is a significant consideration for sexually active teens and their parents. Teens need accurate, factual information to make decisions about sexuality and contraception. Many of the contraceptives on the market today are safe, effective and appropriate for sexually active teens. Understanding the options available for your teen can help you to inform and guide her as she makes these adult choices.
Birth control options for teens include barrier methods and hormonal contraceptives. Condoms, sponges and spermicides are available over-the-counter, while pills, shots, rings, patches, diaphragms and cervical cups require a physician’s prescription. Effectiveness, even with perfect use, varies from method to method. Teens should be encouraged to always use a condom, even if she’s on the pill or another hormonal contraceptive.
Barrier contraceptives work by physically preventing semen from reaching the cervix. Some barrier methods, like diaphragms and cervical cups, are used along with a spermicidal gel or foam. The condom is the most popular and most effective barrier method, according to Planned Parenthood. Hormonal contraceptives can work in several ways. They may prevent ovulation, thicken cervical fluid or prevent implantation. The combination estrogen-progesterone birth control pill is the most common hormonal contraceptive.
Some contraceptives require forethought or daily effort, while others do not. Condoms can be used in the heat of the moment, but the diaphragm, sponge or cervical cup must be inserted prior to intercourse and left in place after intercourse. Hormonal birth control methods are used consistently over the course of the monthly cycle. Pills are taken daily, while patches and rings are changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Condoms can do more than just prevent pregnancy. Regular use of condoms, either as a primary contraceptive or along with a hormonal contraceptive, is essential to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Hormonal contraceptives, particularly estrogen-progesterone combination pills, may help to reduce menstrual bleeding and regulate periods. Some newer pills can treat premenstrual dysmorphic disorder, may reduce hormonal acne or allow girls to skip periods altogether.
Teens should always have accurate information about birth control and a true understanding of failure rates. Reduce the risk of birth control failure by pairing a condom with a hormonal contraceptive. While condoms and other barrier methods have no side effects, hormonal birth control does pose some risks. Most healthy teen girls can use the pill or other hormonal contraceptives, but speak to your doctor or women’s health care provider about specific concerns, particularly if your teen has high blood pressure or other medical complications.