Contraceptives are used to prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They work in different ways to stop the egg from being fertilized by the sperm and implanted in the uterus.
All teens can benefit from being informed about their sexual health at an early age; however, most doctors begin introducing the topic when children are around 11 years old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that parents inform their teens that abstinence is the best way to prevent STIs and pregnancy but also provide the necessary information about their contraception options.
Essentially, teens should know that as soon as they become sexually active, they need to start using contraception.
Why should teens use contraceptives?
Statistically, babies born to teen moms are underweight and are at higher risk of neonatal mortality.
Teen pregnancy can have a detrimental effect on teens’ overall mental and emotional wellbeing. Furthermore, it can hinder certain career goals and adversely affect relationships.
That’s why ensuring teens are well informed about their sexual health is crucial.
Teens can choose from several contraception options available, including both long-lasting and short-acting solutions, as well as whether they’d prefer hormonal or nonhormal contraceptives.
Although these methods are effective at preventing pregnancy, they are not effective at preventing sexually transmitted diseases; therefore, teens need to use a barrier method as well.
- the copper T IUD (nonhormonal);
- the levonorgestrel IUD (hormonal); and
- the subdermal implant.
Besides being the most effective form of contraception, long-lasting contraceptives have many benefits, including not having to remember to use it/or take something every day.
Once inserted, they can last from three years up to twelve years, so if you’re looking for a long-term solution, these methods are ideal.
They do have some medical benefits too; for example, they can alleviate heavy, painful periods.
They can sometimes cause irregular bleeding, spotting, and a change in bleeding patterns and, less commonly, weight gain, acne, headaches, cramping, and heavier bleeding (with the copper T IUD).
- vaginal ring;
- the patch;
- the pill; and
- the progestin injection.
These forms of contraception are more than 90% effective.
The benefits include protection against certain types of cancers and anemia; lighter periods with less cramping; and improvement in skin conditions, such as acne.
Not everybody experiences side effects and each person may react differently; however, the most common ones are weight gain or fluctuations in weight, headaches, breast tenderness, nausea, and skin irritation.
Some serious side effects, such as blood clots, migraines, hypertension, and strokes can also occur, but these are rare.
- external condom;
- internal condom;
- dental dam;
- cervical cap;
- sponge; and
Considering that there’s been an increase in sexually transmitted infections in the 15–24-year-old age group, it’s essential that sexually active teens understand the importance of using barrier methods as well.
Barrier-type contraceptives are made from either latex or synthetic—soft silicone or thin plastic—materials. They are especially designed to fit over the penis or inside the vagina, mouth, or anus.
Barrier methods can also be used with a spermicide, which blocks the sperm from reaching the uterus and changes the vagina’s pH into a hostile environment for the sperm. You can get spermicide as a gel, foam, cream, or suppository.
The main advantage of barrier methods of contraception, such as the condom, is that they are widely available, affordable, and convenient to use.
They are also accessible without a prescription (condom, dental dam) which appeals to many teens. Plus, they are easy to use.
The disadvantage is that if they’re not used correctly, or slip off or move during use, they are not effective at all.
Side effects include an allergic reaction to latex and/or spermicide and some people develop urinary tract infections (UTIs) after using a diaphragm.
Also, some of the barrier contraceptives, such as the diaphragm, cervical cap, and internal condom, are difficult to insert/use until you get the hang of it.
Emergency contraception comes in the form of a pill that contains the hormone, progestin.
It’s effective at preventing pregnancy up to five days after sex; however, it’s important to take it as soon as possible. Teens can access this contraception without a prescription.
Some people experience nausea and vomiting after using emergency contraception, and it’s not a long-term solution.
Other methods of contraception
Although the withdrawal and fertility awareness methods may be effective for some women, they are not recommended for teens as they are only 76% – 78% effective at preventing pregnancy and do not protect against STIs.
As difficult as it may seem, open communication between teens and parents about sexual and reproductive health is vital in order to protect teens from unwanted pregnancies and infections.
If your teen is unwilling to discuss it with you, schedule a visit with your child’s pediatrician/primary doctor as he/she may be more comfortable talking to a professional.
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