It’s not something that we ever want to face as parents, but there will come a time when your teenager has questions about birth control. This definitive guide shows you all of the different methods, what they can do, and which one might be best for your teenager so that you don’t have to worry any longer.
You might hope that your teenager never becomes a statistic, but looking at America’s rates of teen pregnancy are enough to scare any parent into action. Although the numbers appear to be declining our country has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies on earth, which proves just how important it is to discuss birth control with your teenager.
But, when is the right age for this conversation, and what options are out there? If you’ve been trying to navigate this challenging subject on your own you probably feel confused, and rightly so, as there are quite a few choices available.
No two teenagers are the same and so there’s no blanket form of birth control that will suit everyone. There are certain factors that come into play about their need for birth control and their physical requirements, so you have to weigh it all up carefully. With this simple guide, you might just have some of your questions about birth control answered so you can make an informed decision with your teen.
When Is the Right Age For Birth Control?
There’s no magic answer for when you should start your teen on birth control, and for some families, it will be never. It’s up to your beliefs and how comfortable you feel with the process. Remember though, not all birth control is just for preventing pregnancy through sex, they can also be used to reduce acne or reduce the severity of bleeding during periods, so don’t just rule it out completely.
You might want to just bury your head in the sand when it comes to discussing birth control with your kid, but ignorance is not a smart measure to take. With around 230,000 teenage births being recorded in 2015, it’s a fairly alarming statistic to consider.
The best approach to take is having an honest and open conversation with your teenager to see how they feel about the matter and whether or not they understand the repercussions involved in unprotected sex or beginning to take birth control. Both need to be discussed seriously before a decision can be made, and this is a conversation that should include parents and teenagers together.
What Methods of Birth Control Are Available?
Planned Parenthood has an extensive list of all of the types of birth control available and it has every option around. Although many of these won’t actually be suitable for teenagers at this stage in life, it’s important to know what the options are and find one that will suit.
Birth control implant
The birth control implant is a low maintenance choice that might be ideal for teenagers. The implant is inserted into the arm and it’s about the size of a matchstick. These implants can keep you protected from pregnancy for up to four years but they can be removed at any time if you do wish to get pregnant. It works by released hormones into your body that prevents you from getting pregnant and once it’s in there’s nothing more you need to do.
An intrauterine device (IUD) is another popular choice for those who don’t want ongoing maintenance. These are tiny devices that are implanted into the uterus and they can last many years, releasing hormones that will stop eggs from being fertilized. These are generally recommended for women with excess bleeding as they can help slow down periods, but they are also 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Birth control shot
This is a needle given every few months that keeps you from getting pregnant, but it will need to be re-administered to continue to be effective. The shot contains the hormone progesterone which stops ovulation when injected. The birth control shot is around 94% effective as long as you get it done on time. The downside to this is that you’ll need to return on time to get it and there will be ongoing costs associated.
Birth control vaginal ring
The NuvaRing is inserted into the vagina and it releases hormones that will stop ovulation. Provided you remember to use it each month and replace it when necessary, the birth control vaginal ring is an effective method to use. However, the ongoing maintenance is likely not advisable for teenagers who won’t make the time or will simply forget that they’re due to have it changed. This ring must be replaced by yourself, so you’ll also need to learn the best way to do it so that it can be effective.
Birth control patch
This is similar to a nicotine patch, except it releases hormones into the bloodstream that prevent pregnancy. This patch needs to be changed once a week and you are able to give yourself a week off for your period. You can wear it almost anywhere on your body including butt, upper arm, and back so there’s some flexibility. But again, it’s not always the best option for a forgetful teen as it needs to be changed at the same time each week.
Birth control pill
This is a popular choice for birth control for women who are confident they’ll remember, as the pill needs to be taken at the same time every day. The birth control pill is only 91% effective despite many people thinking it was more. You’ll need to set a reminder each day to take it otherwise it will lessen its effectiveness, and you can skip your periods if desired.
The condom is worn by the male during sex, and although they are always recommended for preventing against STDs, they aren’t always as effective for stopping pregnancy. Asking teenagers to rely solely on condoms is irresponsible, but it should always be discussed as a must have if you believe your teen might be engaging in sexual activity.
The female condom is more suited to an older demographic as women and it works similar to the male type. It’s less than 80% effective and has to be worn every time so it’s not a popular option for teenagers. These internal condoms can be effective in preventing against STD’s though, however, it’s more common for the male to wear one instead.
A diaphragm is again suited for older women and not teenagers. These compact, bendable cups are inserted into the vagina before sex so that it covers the cervix. Their rate of success is around 88% effective so certainly not enough to prevent teenage pregnancies. They can also be complicated to use, especially for younger women.
There are many other methods available that probably aren’t suitable for teenagers until they get older. Spermicide, ovulation tracking, the withdraw method, and breastfeeding will likely not apply to your child until they reach adulthood. However, teaching them about these methods will prove their knowledge on sexual health so it’s never too early for this type of education.
Speaking to Your Teen About Birth Control
Although it’s a conversation that most parents would be happy to ignore, this only leads
to further confusion for your teen which can lead to the wrong decisions. Don’t be afraid to start the dialogue if you think they’re at the right age, which will depend on the individual and what’s considered acceptable for your family.
If your teenager comes to you and wants to discuss birth control, for example, they ask to be put on the pill, try to avoid the initial reaction of shock and anger. Be thankful that your teen is
responsible enough to understand what their options are, and consider that it could be a request made to fix other issues like heavy periods or acne.
One of the most important things to discuss when talking about birth control is how they don’t all protect against STD’s. Therefore, birth control shouldn’t just be seen as a magic pill that can do it all, so arm them with the right knowledge.
A Necessary Measure For Today’s Teens
Even if you don’t want to admit it, the chance that teenagers could be out there having sex is one that might be more real than you think. With so many unplanned teenage pregnancies occurring each year, this little bit of prevention could save them from a lifetime of paying for their uninformed decisions.
Birth control comes in many different forms and the side effects and success rate all differ from type to type. Speak with your teenager and a health professional to see what’s recommended and you can have peace of mind that you did everything you could to keep them safe.