Whether you like to admit it or not, teenagers are having sex. They always have been, and they always will be. In fact, a recent government survey found that 43 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have had sex. While many health education systems, especially in America’s red states, like to teach abstinence as the best course of action against teen pregnancy, birth control is becoming increasingly encouraged for young girls.
Pills have traditionally been the most popular form of birth control, but lately, gynecologists have been recommending IUDs to their teenage patients.
What It Is
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of birth control in the form of a small, t-shaped plastic insert. The IUD is inserted within the uterus, and depending on the type of IUD (hormonal or copper) can last anywhere from five to ten years, respectively.
The advantages for teenagers are numerous. IUDs are nearly 100 percent effective and require little to no responsibility from the teenager. Birth control pills, on the other hand, must be taken at the same time every day for optimum effectiveness (which is nearly impossible considering the hectic schedules of teenagers – school, field hockey practice, scarfing down dinner in front of the TV, homework…).
Missing even a single pill can lead to pregnancy and decreases protection to only 91% effective. As IUDs offer maximum protection with minimum hassle, even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists promotes IUDs and implants as “first-line recommendations” for teenage patients.
IUDs are more invasive than the pill and require an oftentimes painful insertion procedure – previously not done on nulliparous women. Many women experience cramping and pain during and the after the insertion. Depending on insurance coverage, IUDs can require large upfront costs, as opposed to smaller monthly payments for birth control pills. And of course, while IUDs protect against pregnancy, they do not protect against HIV or AIDs and should be paired with condoms for those who are sexually active with multiple partners.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has updated its 2007 guidelines of encouraging the use of IUDs among teenagers to include physicians discussing IUDs with sexually active teens at every visit. Despite this recommendation, The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to refrain from endorsing IUDs for teens, as STD risks remain likely.
But open minded thinkers on the Academy’s board, such as Dr. Paula Braverman of University of Cincinnati, believe gynecologists’ advice to teenagers should be enough to protect them.
According to Raine-Bennett, of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, teenage girls respond differently to the proposition of an IUD. “Some of them say, ‘Great! Something that I don’t have to think about.’ Others are, like, ‘Hmmm, something in my body?’ It really varies.” Of course, choice of birth control method is deeply personal and something to be discussed with a licensed professional. If you are a teenager looking for a new form of birth control or any other women seeking out gynecological advice, use Gynecologists.com’s search directory to locate a doctor near you!