Reproductive health and birth control for teens is a topic every parent should know about.  I want to emphasize that the only way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections 100% of the time is to not have sex at all, but parents and teens should be aware of birth control methods available. This is the third post in a series of 3 on birth control (also known as contraception) for parents of teens.

With sexual activity come a lot of responsibilities that teens likely will not be equipped to handle without help. As was stated in previous posts on Hormone Containing Methods and Emergency Contraception, in the US, about 46% of all high school kids have had sex. Only 23% were on birth control and 61% had used a condom the last time they had sex (Centers for Disease Control).  For parents, having open communication with your teens about expectations and family values is an effective way to help your teen wait to have sex until they are older.   Talk with your teen early and often in order teach them how to be aware of consequences and how to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections if they decide to become sexually active. See our post on Tips for Talking to Your Teen About Sex.

There are many types of birth control and it is best to pick a method that fits into a person’s lifestyle.  If your teen is interested in birth control, speak with their doctor to find a method BEFORE they start having sex if at all possible.  I’ll summarize barrier methods (condoms) in this post.

Throughout the series, keep in mind that birth control and sexual health is a topic everyone, both young women and young men (regardless of whether gay, straight, or questioning their sexuality) need to know about! Talking about birth control does not mean you condone having sex and will not make your teen more likely to have sex.  In fact, research shows that teens whose parents communicate about sexual health actually postpone having sex until later!

These descriptions do not outline everything about birth control options, but are meant to provide a brief overview of available methods in the US.  Talk with your teen’s doctor if any of them sound like a method of interest or if you have more questions after reading.

Barrier methods:

With all of the effective hormone containing birth control options out there, it is very important to remember condoms. Other than not having sex at all, condoms are the only way to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). Condoms are readily available in drugstores, doctor’s offices, and even some school based clinics. They can be obtained for free in many locations (such as a doctor’s office), or at low cost. Though condoms are not the most effective method of birth control, they are better than other methods (like withdrawal, rhythm method, or no method at all) for preventing pregnancy.

Condoms can be tricky to use, so I encourage a practice run with something like a banana. The tip should be squeezed and the condom should them be rolled down. Squeezing the tip allows room for ejaculated sperm to collect; this helps prevent the condom from breaking. Condoms can also break if certain lubricants (like Vaseline or mineral oil) are used, or if they are used past the expiration date. A break in a condom means sperm and/or infection can get through the barrier, putting a person at risk for unplanned pregnancy or STI. Condoms are also very stretchy (they can be blown up like a balloon), so this makes sizing very easy.

Other barrier methods like diaphragm and cervical cap used to be very common, but now are rarely used as contraception. They have to be fitted to the individual using them and placed just before intercourse, which can be very challenging for teens. These methods have been largely replaced by more reliable and effective hormonal methods of birth control.

If you (or your teen) are interested in learning more about birth control, talk with your teen’s medical provider. They can review all of the options and help choose the method that best fits your teen’s lifestyle.


Check out these other posts on sexual health in teens:

10 Tips for Talking to Your Teen About Sex

Teens and birth control: hormone containing methods

Teens and birth control: emergency contraception

The Birth Control Pill: not just for contraception