Should you give your teen birth control?

Oct 2, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. ET

Your teen has had a boyfriend for several months and although you’ve had the ongoing sex talk and are mostly confident that she isn’t sexually active, you worry about what will happen if she does decide to go there.

The question is, should you help her get on the pill or is that sending the message that you’re OK with it?

Teen pregnancy rates are on the decline

Here is the "good" news: According to a report published by The Center for Disease Control (CDC), teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. are on the decline. The teen pregnancy rate dropped 9 percent from 2009 to 2010. This was an historic low as fewer babies were born to teens in 2010 than any year since 1946.

So why the decline?

Turns out, it's the strong pregnancy prevention messages directed toward teenagers that have been credited with the birth rate declines. Recently released data from the National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the CDC, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), have shown increased use of contraception at first initiation of sex and use of dual methods of contraception (that is, condoms and hormonal methods) among sexually active female and male teenagers. This means that when teens are educated about how to protect themselves against pregnancy, it can help them not get pregnant.

The CDC encourages that parents take these steps to help their teens stay safe:

  • Talk to your teens about delaying sex, avoiding pregnancy, birth control, having respectful relationships, and being aware of dating violence.
  • Get to know the parents of your teen's friends and be involved with what's going on in their lives.
  • Talk to community leaders about the need for effective programs that prevent teen pregnancy and address overall sexual and reproductive health.

If you decide that you do want to give your teen contraception, there are several methods of birth control to consider. Visit the CDC website for more information.

Discussing sex and birth control with your teen >>

If giving your child contraception isn't for you, you still need to talk to her

There's most likely not a parent out there who wants her child to be sexually active while still a teenager. Most parents would hope their teen would abstain. But as a parent, what you want and what actually happens are often not one in the same. If you are against giving your teen contraception, it is still very important to talk with her about everything. This includes STDs, sex, pregnancy and oral sex.

Did you know that many teens don't understand that oral sex is still sex and, shockingly, that they still need to protect themselves during it?

It can be tempting to bury your head in the sand and "hope" that your teen will be safe and smart or convince yourself that by providing your teen with options should she decide to have sex will actually propel her toward doing it, but in the end your unwillingness to have an open dialogue of any kind could be putting her at risk.

Teen talk: Does oral sex count? >>

Teens are still getting pregnant

Although there has been a decline, the statistics are still alarming. The U.S. teen birth rate still remains one of the highest among other industrialized countries. Four percent of teenage girls in the U.S. still get pregnant every year. And according to the latest report from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, one in four high school students will drop out before graduation. And nearly one-third of teen girls who drop out cite pregnancy or parenthood as a reason.

Don't let your child be one of the clueless teens that are getting pregnant >>

So are you sending the message to your teen that it's OK to have sex by educating her about birth control or even helping her obtain it? That is up to you to decide. But no matter what you do, it's important that you keep educating yourself about the risks your teen could face.

Read more about teens and sex

Teens and sex: Playing it safe, or still taking risks?
Is your sex talk sinking in with your teen?
How to deal: Teenage romance