If you're a parent of a sexually active teen, you probably just breathed a sigh of relief.
But the not-so-good news is that teens don't use these popular ways to prevent pregnancy all the time -- or correctly. So, you might wonder: What's the best and easiest type of birth control to help make sure your son or daughter doesn't become a parent too soon?
Here's what the experts say are the best options.
The Safest Bet: Abstinence
Not having sex, also called abstinence, is the only surefire way to avoid a pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, like HPV. Some strains of HPV have been linked to cervical cancer.
The Best Bet: IUDs and Implants
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants are known as long-acting, reversible contraceptives. Doctors often prescribe them first.
Why? You don't have to think about them in the heat of the moment or remember to take a pill every day. And they work extremely well at preventing pregnancies. Less than 1 in every 100 females with an IUD or birth control implant will get pregnant during a year.
Here are the basics:
- An IUD is a small, T-shaped device placed into the womb. It can stay there for 3-10 years, depending on the type. Some IUDs release hormones to provide more protection against pregnancy and to ease menstrual cramps.
- The implant is a plastic rod about the size of a match. It goes under the skin on your upper arm. It prevents pregnancies for up to 3 years.
- Each must be inserted by a health care provider.
- Neither will protect you against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Male condoms are best for that.
Learn more about the differences between an IUD and an implant for birth control.
Other Good Bets: Shots & Patches
The shot is a drug called medroxyprogesterone (Depo-Provera). It has a long-acting form of the hormone progestin that lasts about 3 months.
If your teen chooses this option, they'll need to visit the doctor every 11-13 weeks for an injection. Girls who use this type of birth control might have lighter periods. But they could also gain weight and lose bone density. Only about 6 in every 100 females who choose this method get pregnant in the first year. That's a better success rate than birth control pills.
The birth control patch, ethinyl estradiol/norelgestromin (Ortho Evra, Twirla, Xulane), combines the hormones estrogen and progestin. It isn't as foolproof: You have to remember to apply and remove it on time. Your teen needs to stick it onto their body, usually the upper arm or their backside. They’ll wear it for 3 weeks, then take a week off. That's when they should get their period.
It doesn't prevent pregnancy as well as other methods. About 9 in every 100 users will get pregnant during the first year. Still, it’s easier to use than birth control pills. Get more information on the differences between the birth control pill and the patch.
How to Choose
Go to the doctor with your teen to discuss the options. Some things to consider:
- Their overall health
- Cultural and religious preferences
- How well the method prevents pregnancy
- Whether it prevents STDs
- Ease of use
It can be hard to talk to your teen about sex and birth control. Their pediatrician or family doctor can help get the conversation started and either prescribe what they need or refer you to a specialist.
As of March 2016, teens in 21 states and the District of Columbia are able to decide for themselves if they want birth control. They don’t need a parent's consent.
While most birth control methods require the girl to take action, boys should take responsibility, too. They should wear a condom during sex to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. Condoms are the only protection against STDs. Find out which type of birth control is right for your teen.