Nearly one million teenage girls get pregnant every year in the U.S. Teen pregnancy has negative financial, emotional, social, educational, and medical consequences for teens, their children, and their community. Teen birth control is widely available and can easily help reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy.
Teen birth control can include a variety of methods, including:
- Abstaining from sexual relations or intercourse
- Barrier methods such as condoms, which block sperm from joining with the egg
- Hormonal methods, which prevent the teen girl from ovulating
- Spermicides, which kill the sperm before it can get to the egg
Some forms of teen birth control, such as condoms, are available to teens at the store for a relatively low price. Other types of teen birth control, such as those that regulate hormones, require a prescription. Many clinics and health centers offer free or reduced-price condoms to teens, as well as counseling and sometimes teen birth control prescriptions.
The best birth control for teens is abstinence - not having sex at all. Abstinence is the only safe way to prevent pregnancies and STDs and avoid the possible negative emotional effects of intercourse; outercourse, which is kissing and other forms of "making out" that do not end in intercourse, is also safer as long as bodily fluids are not exchanged.
Teens who are having sex should always use a latex male condom, unless a latex allergy exists, in which case another type of condom should be used. This greatly reduces the risk of teen pregnancy and most STDs.
In making decisions about additional forms of teen birth control, seek the advice of a medical professional, who can explain side effects and benefits of teen birth control methods. Some teen girls like to use a form of birth control that regulates hormones since this may help ease some of the symptoms of menstruation and make periods more regular. Remember that none of these other forms of teen birth control protects against STDs.
Some methods of birth control which are discouraged for teens include:
- Sterilization, in which tubes that transport eggs or sperm are blocked or cut; this method is generally permanent, and the teen may someday wish to have children.
- Withdrawal, in which there is vaginal penetration, but the teen boy pulls out before he ejaculates; this method is difficult to do correctly and can still cause pregnancy.
- The IUD (Intrauterine Device), which is a small device is inserted in the uterus to prevent pregnancy; the device may not stay in place in a teen's uterus unless she has had a child already.
- The rhythm method, when a teen girl monitors her fertility and avoids sex at the times she is most likely to get pregnant; most teens do not yet have regular enough menstrual cycles to use this method successfully.
If teens have questions about birth control, there are good resources they can turn to. Usually it is best not to take another teen's word about teen birth control methods, as the teen may uninformed or dishonest; go instead to a reliable medical source or trusted adult.
Teens should try to talk to their parents about their birth control questions. Parents should help their teen feel comfortable asking them about birth control by keeping an open line of communication. Instead of having "the talk" once with their teens, parents should begin at an early age to have age-appropriate discussions about love, sex, relationships, and values; this has a strong influence on teens' choices, and will help them feel comfortable talking about their concerns. Parents should not make teens feel threatened or embarrassed if they want to ask questions about birth control.
If a teen cannot go to a parent, they can check in the phone book for a local branch of Planned Parenthood, which offers a range of services including counseling and reduced price medical services. Many areas have local health clinics that offer many of the same services.
Teen Birth Control Sources:
- Planned Parenthood "In Focus: Birth Control Choices for Teens" [online]
- National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy [online]
- WebMD "Where Do Kids Learn About Sex?" [online]
- WebMD "Teens and Birth Control" [online]