Teenage Pregnancy and Birth Control Access

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 194,000 babies were born to females aged 15 to 19 in 2017. This birth rate is down from previous years. However, many teenage pregnancies are unplanned and can be prevented.

Path to improved health

The CDC and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) support an evidence-based approach to sexual health education. This includes education that is comprehensive. The AAFP doesn’t recommend abstinence-only sexual education. Family physicians are trained to discuss all matters on sexual health. Teens should be able to talk to doctors, parents, or other trusted adults for information on how to prevent pregnancy.

There are two main ways to prevent pregnancy.

  1. Abstinence: The only way to prevent pregnancy 100% is to not have sex.
  2. Birth control: There are many types of birth control. Females can take birth control in the form of a pill, patch, or shot. Another option is an intrauterine device (IUD). Both males and females can use condoms and/or spermicide.

Teenagers can get a prescription for birth control from their family doctor. Some local clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, also can provide access to birth control.

If you decide to be sexually active, you should use condoms even if you use other birth control. This is the only way to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Keep in mind, birth control only works when used consistently. If you forget to take a pill or use a condom, there is still a chance of becoming pregnant. In this case, you can talk to your doctor about emergency contraception as a potential option.

Things to consider

Pregnancy health risks are greater for teenage girls and their babies. These risks include:

  • Premature birth.
  • Low birth weight.
  • High blood pressure.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor if you are or are thinking of becoming sexually active. He or she can talk to you about your options to prevent pregnancy and STIs. If you can’t see a doctor, visit a local clinic, such as Planned Parenthood, for assistance for sexual health.

If you become pregnant, see your doctor right away. It’s important to begin prenatal care as early as possible. Teenagers who are pregnant also should:

  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
  • Take a prenatal vitamin to support healthy growth and help prevent birth defects.
  • Use condoms, if still sexually active. Condoms protect against STIs that could harm the baby.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Can anyone get birth control?
  • What is the best type of birth control for me to use?
  • How effective is birth control?
  • What are the side effects of birth control?
  • Do my parents need to know if I want to use birth control?
  • What are my options if I become pregnant?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose of my oral contraceptives?

Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians: Sex: Making the Right Decision

National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus: Teenage Pregnancy

Planned Parenthood