The subject of birth control options for teens is often sensitive for parents. While some teenagers use birth control to manage acne, irregular periods, or symptoms of endometriosis or PCOS, others need it because they’re sexually active. For parents, the subject of sexually active teens and young adults may be challenging.
However, we assure you that after decades working as physicians and OB/GYNs, informed teenagers make the healthiest decisions about their sex lives and are the least likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases or experience teenage pregnancy.
Have Open Conversations About Teen Sex & Birth Control
If speaking to your teen about sex is difficult for you, we recommend the following resources:
- Talking With Your Teens About Sex (CDC)
- 10 Strategies to Talk With Teens About Sex (Parent & Teen)
- Why You Should Be Talking to Teens About Sex (childmind.org).
And, to keep you humble, we also recommend reading NPR’s post What Your Teen Wishes You Knew About Sex Education.
The reality is that children and teens form exceptionally inaccurate and often harmful ideas about relationships, intimacy, sex/sexuality, and consent without accurate information and loving support from trusted adults.
Best Birth Control Options For Your Teenager
Once the foundation is set, it’s time to discuss the best birth control options.
1) Never have sex if you aren’t ready
Abstinence is the best form of birth control because there isn’t any other option that is 100% effective. And while abstinence also fits in with specific moral belief systems, we approach this more from a whole-body experience.
We work with women and gender-diverse patients every day who had negative first experiences with sex due to sexual assault/abuse, feeling pressured, or not feeling confident enough to wait until they feel ready (and safe). Abstinence should be the only form of birth control required until a young person feels 100% ready, informed, and empowered to make the right choices for themselves.
2) Always use a condom
Condoms should be used 100% of the time when teens are having intercourse – including oral sex. They are the only form of birth control that prevents STDs. Most sexually transmitted diseases are treatable, but many are silent infections that cause long-term damage if not diagnosed and treated early. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is one of these, and it also puts teens at higher risk for cancer and infertility later on.
Because we’re OB/GYNs, we focus on women’s health. However, if you have a teenage son, make sure he also the best and only birth control option is condoms. Even if his partner promises she’s faithful or uses hormonal birth control, he is the only one who controls his future health and parenting path.
3) Schedule an OB appointment to discuss hormonal vs. non-hormonal options
Most birth control options are divided into those using hormones to override the body’s fertile window and non-hormonal options that use a physical device to block sperm from meeting the egg.
Examples of non-hormonal birth control include condoms, diaphragms, and non-hormonal IUDs that irritate the uterine lining. Hormonal birth control options include the birth control pill, Depo-Provera shot, hormonal rings, IUDs, or subdermal (under the skin) implants that use time-released hormones and don’t require daily remembering the way the pill does. There are pros and cons to each.
Scheduling an appointment with an OB/GYN is the best way to decide which is the healthiest option for your teen. In addition to acclimating her to the process, providing information, answering questions, and so on, we’ll also look at her current medical and menstrual cycle to help her decide what’s best.
For example, if a young woman has regular periods and leads a healthy and active lifestyle, we may start with a birth control pill recommendation. However, younger teens (and their parents) often fear they’ll forget to take the pill every day (it only takes once to get pregnant). If that’s a concern, we may opt for options like a vaginal ring, a shot, or a uterine or subdermal implant that only needs to be changed every month or every few months. This makes it easier to use calendar reminders.