Teens, Birth Control and “The Talk” – What You Need to Know
When it comes to birth control and sexual health, pediatricians are a trusted source of information. If you have a teen, here’s what to expect at the doctor’s office, along with tips for talking to your teen.
Confidentiality and Sexual History
During the visit, the doctor will want to speak with your teen alone, to discuss topics that might be sensitive or difficult for a teen to talk about with a parent in the room. Non-judgmental questions about current and past sexual history will be asked, with a focus on prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
While the doctor will keep some conversations confidential, health care providers encourage teens to involve their parents or trusted adults, too.
Consent and Birth Control Choices
Condoms are the most commonly used contraceptive among teens and condom use should be stressed for both boys and girls, but they are only about 82% effective at preventing pregnancy. That’s why the best protection against STIs and pregnancy is to always use a condom along with another form of birth control.
Laws on parental consent for birth control vary in every state, and Ohio law doesn’t address the topic, so check with your pediatrician’s office to learn their policy. Some offices may require parental consent for certain types of birth control.
Your pediatrician will talk to you and your teen about many types of birth control, including abstinence, and discuss advantages and common side effects. Most options do have potential side effects, but using birth control is still far safer than the consequences of a teen pregnancy.
You may be aware of the pill and the patch, but there are other, more effective options, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the contraceptive implant. IUDs and the implant are recommended as safe, first-line options for teens because they are more than 99% effective and can last between 3-10 years.
While pelvic exams are not required in order for a doctor to prescribe birth control, getting an IUD does require a pelvic exam. Your teen may feel less anxiety about making an appointment and discussing birth control options with her doctor if she knows that a pelvic exam may not be needed.
Most birth control options are covered by insurance, and there are programs that provide confidential and free or low-cost birth control to patients without coverage. Don’t let the cost of birth control be a barrier to protecting your teen.
Resources for Parents
Talking to teens about birth control is not giving them permission to engage in sexual activity. By having open communication with your teens, you are protecting them against unplanned pregnancy and STIs. In fact, teens whose parents talk to them about pregnancy, sex and birth control wait longer to have sex and are more likely to use protection when they do start.
Your teens may be nervous about asking you questions or discussing the details of their sexual history, but you can talk to them about goals, healthy behaviors and your expectations. Our BC4Teens resource for parents has tips on how to talk with your teen about sex and birth control.
To learn more about the contraceptive implant, IUDs and other birth control methods, please visit Which Birth Control is Right for Me?