Pediatricians recommend IUDs and implants for teen birth control

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that sexually active teenage girls use hormonal birth control implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) instead of birth control pills.

What’s the reasoning? These forms of birth control are very reliable and don’t require remembering to take a pill every day — or figuring out how to use a condom the right way. Birth control that’s essentially installed and then forgotten about takes away a lot of the room for error that exists with pills and condoms.

These recommendations aren’t new. In 2012 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists made the same recommendation, citing the fact that 42 percent of teens ages 15-19 are sexually active and that 8 out of 10 teen pregnancies are unplanned. Doctors are hoping that the recommendation from The American Academy of Pediatrics will encourage more parents and teens to use IUDs and implants as the first line of defense against unplanned pregnancy.

I began using birth control at 16, not to avoid pregnancy, but to help control debilitating periods. I wasn’t always reliable when it came to remembering the pill, so I can understand the reasoning that girls are better off with something they don’t have to pay attention to.

But what about sexually transmitted infections? I hope that teens don’t see IUDs or other forms of hormonal birth control as a substitute for using condoms — especially since young men have a tendency to whine about how condoms don’t feel as good as unprotected sex. No matter how foolproof birth control is, girls need to know how to get and use condoms and they need to feel empowered to insist that their partners wrap it up.

Hormonal birth control is not without side effects. Abstinence is the only foolproof way to avoid STIs and pregnancy, but anyone who’s ever been horny knows that it’s awfully hard to decide not to have sex when you really really want to. We do need to arm our girls and boys with protection against disease and unplanned pregnancy, but as a parent I’d hesitate over an option that might leave my daughter with mood swings or other unpleasant side effects. Especially in an IUD or implant that isn’t easily halted the way birth control pills can be if necessary.

Despite my hesitations, I think it’s fantastic that The American Academy of Pediatrics is willing to make a bold statement about birth control for teen girls. We’re not serving our teens by burying our heads in the sand and pretending that they’re not having sex or that they’re going to adhere to our personal beliefs about sex. As painful as it might be to some, giving teens solid information and plenty of options for contraceptives and safe sex is the best way to protect their futures.

More on teens and sex

Should you buy condoms for your teen?
The teens and birth control debate
Is your sex talk sinking in with your teen?