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Birth Control (cont.)

Teens and Birth Control

Whether you are male or female, your life can suddenly be changed forever by pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Think for a moment what this would be like for you.

The most dependable way to prevent pregnancy and STD infection is not to have sexual intercourse. This is called abstinence.

If you do not choose abstinence and are sexually active, always be prepared. To protect yourself and your future, think ahead about birth control methods and STD protection. Never have sex without protection. Using condoms will reduce your risk of getting an STD.

Even a single act of sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancy or an STD infection.

Take charge of your health and your future

Even if you plan not to have sex until you're older, take a little time to learn and decide about:

  • Which birth control methods are available.
  • Which birth control methods you know you would be able to count on every time you'd need one.
  • How to use a condom to avoid getting or spreading a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV. (Some STDs can be spread through oral sex as well as through intercourse.) If you are sexually active, male or female, always have a condom with you. Don't ever depend on someone else to have a condom when you need it.
  • How to use a combination of methods for the best protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

It may not be easy to talk about sexual activity and birth control, but it is important that you know how to practice safe sex. Hopefully, you have a parent, school or church counselor, or health professional that you feel comfortable talking to. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood are private, confidential resources for learning how to be both sexual and responsible. See the Planned Parenthood Web site for teens at www.teenwire.com, or check your telephone listings for the Planned Parenthood office near you.

The best birth control methods for you are those that are easy for you to use (or are already in effect) each time you have intercourse. Follow up regularly with a health professional to make sure that your birth control method is working effectively for you. And if you have any side effects that are making it hard for you to use the method as directed, choose a different method.

If you have a long-term (chronic) illness or a disability, talk to a health professional about which birth control choices are best for you.

For teen boys and girls

Protect yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

  • Consider the benefits of abstinence.
  • If you have sex, use a condom.
  • If your partner is not comfortable with using a condom, don't have sex.
  • To prevent pregnancy, use another method of birth control (such as birth control pills) along with the condom.

For teen girls

Some teenage girls are worried about visiting a health professional for birth control.

  • Don't be shy about protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases by having a condom on hand and asking your partner to use it. Or you can use a female condom.
  • If you are concerned about having a pelvic exam or keeping your health information private, talk to your health professional or a family planning clinic counselor.
  • If you have not been sexually active before now, a pelvic exam is not necessary.
  • If you have been sexually active, it's very important that you are screened for STDs every year. Some STDs can be screened for with a urine test.
  • Have emergency contraception on hand or know how to get it if a condom breaks.

Before choosing and using a birth control method, be honest with yourself. If it failed and you started a pregnancy, what would you do? Are you ready to raise a child? Is an abortion an acceptable option for you? Answering these questions can help you know how committed you are to preventing a pregnancy. For most sexually active teens, it is worth it to use the most effective birth control methods possible.

When choosing a birth control method, also consider protecting yourself against sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms give the most effective STD protection for both partners, no matter what other birth control method you are using. Some studies suggest that female condoms are as effective as male condoms in preventing STDs.1 But as birth control, condoms used alone are not highly dependable.

Birth control methods for teenagers
Method Consideration

Abstinence

  • Not having sex is the most effective method of birth control and STD prevention.

Barrier methods

  • Condoms are more likely to prevent pregnancy if you use them with a spermicide or another birth control method. If the condom breaks, you will need to use emergency contraception.
  • Male condoms are inexpensive and easy to get without a prescription.
  • Male condoms give teen boys control over their STD risks and lower the risk of becoming a parent.
  • Female condoms cost more than male condoms and can be difficult to use properly.
  • A diaphragm, cervical cap, or cervical shieldClick here to see an illustration. with a spermicidal cream, foam, or jelly can be difficult to use without first learning how from your health professional.

Hormonal pill, skin patch, or vaginal ring

  • These are the most popular methods used by teenage girls.
  • You must remember to take a pill every day at about the same time.
  • Talk to your health professional about any side effects. Another type of hormonal birth control may be better for you if side effects are a problem.
  • After stopping birth control pills (at the end of a full pack), you can become pregnant in the next month.
  • The patchClick here to see an illustration. is changed every week, which you may prefer to taking a pill each day.
  • The vaginal ringClick here to see an illustration. is a foldable, flexible ring of plastic that stays in the vagina for 3 consecutive weeks.
  • Using a condom with these methods will help lower the risk of getting an STD.

Hormonal implants

  • The hormonal implant is an extremely effective method of birth control. The implant, which is about the size of a matchstick, is inserted under the skin on the inside of your upper arm. This releases hormones that prevent pregnancy for about 3 years.
  • This method is convenient and does not require use every day or with each act of intercourse.
  • With this method, you only need a new implant every 3 years.
  • This method doesn't protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.
  • The most common side effect is irregular bleeding. Menstrual cycles also become shorter or stop completely.

Birth control shot

  • This method is convenient and does not require use every day or with each act of intercourse.
  • This method requires that you see your health professional every 3 months.
  • Side effects of weight gain and irregular bleeding may be bothersome.
  • The shot causes mild bone thinning when it is used for 2 or more years. This is of special concern during the teen years, when young women are normally building bone strength. Be sure to get enough daily calcium and weight-bearing exercise. And discuss with your health professional your bone health and birth control options after 2 years of using the shot.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

  • The IUDClick here to see an illustration. can be used by women under 20.
  • There are side effects that you should discuss with your health professional.
  • Starting an IUD isn't an option for a woman who has a pelvic infection or a sexually transmitted disease. Inserting an IUD can carry infection up into the uterus, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Fertility awareness

This is not recommended, especially for teenagers, because it:

  • Often leads to pregnancy, even with careful planning and not having sex on fertile days.
  • Doesn't protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception can be used if you have had unprotected sex or you think your birth control method may have failed. The pills can prevent a pregnancy when taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex, although they are most effective when used within 72 hours. A copper IUD is sometimes used as emergency contraception and can prevent pregnancy if it is inserted within 5 to 7 days after you have had unprotected sex.

If you have had unprotected sexual intercourse or you think your birth control method may have failed, emergency contraception is a backup to prevent a pregnancy.

It's a good idea to have emergency contraception on hand or a prescription for emergency contraception in case you ever need it. Talk to your health professional or a family planning clinic about this.

If you do use emergency contraception, be sure to follow up with your health professional to find an effective, ongoing method of birth control.

For more information, see the Emergency Contraception Web site at http://ec.princeton.edu/.

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