You encouraged abstinence, but your daughter has chosen to become a sexually active teen. She’s too young to become a mother — so what’s the best birth control option for her?
She wants to talk about it… with you
“Teens say they would be far more likely to avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have open, honest conversations with their parents about sex and birth control,” says Bill Albert, chief program officer at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
“When it comes to your child’s decisions about sex and birth control, you are far more influential than you think,” says Albert. “Teens consistently say that parents — not peers, not partners, not pop culture — most influence their decisions about sex.”
Boston public health consulting firm JSI conducted studies which explored birth control and unintended pregnancy. “Two key messages came out of these studies,” says Yvonne Hamby, project director for the studies:
- Adolescents want information about making healthy choices if they decide to become sexually active.
- Their parents and health care providers are their most trusted sources of information.
“If you’re a parent, talk about sex with your kids,” says Hamby. “It all starts with one conversation.”
You’re not sending a mixed message
“The teen pregnancy rate and the teen birth rate have declined by more than 40 percent since the early 1990s,” says Albert. And the decline is due to the “magic combination of less sex and more contraception.”
As a parent, you can strongly discourage your teen from having sex while also providing her with information about contraception. This is not a mixed message. In fact, “teens say this message is quite clear,” says Albert.
Best contraception for teens
“Encourage abstinence as the only certain way to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections,” says Hamby. “But if your daughter does choose to become sexually active, provide her with information so that she can choose a contraceptive method that matches her lifestyle and protects against STDs.”
Forty-two percent of teens ages 15 to 19 are having sex, and eight of 10 teen pregnancies are unintended, and now the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is recommending long-term birth control options for sexually active teens.
- Sub-dermal implant: The implant is inserted under the skin on the upper arm and releases hormones that stop ovulation. Lasts three years.
- Non-hormonal intrauterine device with copper: The IUD is a hormone-free device that is fitted inside the uterus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. Lasts five to 10 years.
- Hormonal intrauterine device: The IUC (or IUS) releases hormones to thin the lining of the uterus and make it difficult for a fertilized egg to attach. Lasts five years.
- Contraceptive injections: Injections release a hormone that stops ovulation and thickens the mucus of the cervix to make it difficult for sperm to pass. Lasts eight to 12 weeks.
In its September 2012 update to guidance regarding teen birth control, the ACOG listed IUDs and hormonal implants as “first-line recommendations” for doctors whose teenage patients are seeking contraception.
Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) is more invasive than the pill and must be put in place by a trained medical professional, but it is more than 99 percent effective. LARC is recommended for adolescents to help decrease the teen pregnancy rate “because they don’t rely on your daughter’s compliance,” says Hamby.
Don’t forget the condoms
It is extremely important that your daughter protect herself from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The ACOG stated that condoms — in addition to recommended birth control methods — be used at all times to prevent AIDS and other STDs.
A single sexual act with an infected partner can result in the transmission of a disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the correct way to use condoms.