With nearly half of teens initiating sexual activity by the time they graduate from high school, discussing pregnancy prevention is extremely important. Abstinence is the only way to 100% guarantee that a person will not become pregnant or obtain a sexually transmitted infection, but if a teen does become sexually active, health care providers can counsel them on the options that are most effective at preventing unwanted consequences. In this post we’ll focus on pregnancy prevention.
This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics provided a policy statement recommending long acting reversible contraception (LARCs) for adolescent females. LARCs come in two forms: an implantable rod that contains a hormone and is placed in the arm or an intrauterine device (IUD). There are 3 different IUDs available for teens. One contains copper and lasts for 10 years, 2 others contain a hormone and last from 3 to 5 years. We’ve posted about LARCs before and have described their safety and benefits, but a recent study was published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine that showcased amazing results when teens were provided with accurate information about LARCs and chose them as a form of birth control.
The study was based on results from the CHOICE project, which we highlighted here and can be seen in this video. Teens were counseled that LARCs are birth control that, once in place, doesn’t require them to do anything! There’s no pill to remember, no patch to change, no shot to remember to come in to receive. 70% of the teens chose a LARC when given the option (it was provided for free) and 2/3rd kept the LARC in place for a number of years. These young people had significantly lower teen pregnancy and abortion rates!
What does this mean for parents? Talk to your teen about relationships. Abstinence is the only guaranteed way to remain STD free and not become a teen parent, but if your teen chooses to have sex (and about half will by the time they finish high school), let them know they have options. Teens should use the birth control option that fits with their lifestyle the best. A busy teen who has trouble remembering to take a daily multivitamin will probably have trouble remembering to take a birth control pill daily, and that can increase the risk of unintended pregnancy. LARCs today are safe, they are not associated with increased risks of infection, are completely reversible with no lasting effects on fertility, and they last for 3 to 10 years.
If you have questions about LARCs or other birth control options, speak with your teen’s medical provider, schedule a visit with a Pediatric and Adolescent gynecologist, or seek out an Adolescent Medicine specialist.