Pens and Computer? Check. Condoms and Birth Control?...
It’s that time of year when parents are busy with school shopping and taking our kids to the doctor for back-to-school checkups. If you have an older teen, you may want to consider adding one more task to your to-do list: talking about sex and contraception and helping him or her get the information and resources needed by a sexually active teen.
The reality is that 63 percent of high school seniors have had sex, so it’s important that older teens know how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and STDs. This is information they need to have before heading off to college or starting jobs that move them out of our homes and into the world to navigate these health concerns on their own.
One way we can help our teens is by arming our sons and daughters with condoms and helping young women get a very effective form of contraception. Since all sexually active people, particularly young people ages 15-24, are at risk for STDs, it’s important that we talk to our teens about the benefits of using both a condom and another method of birth control at the same time. And it’s crucial that we help them get comfortable talking about condom use with their partners.
So, if you’re a mom or dad ready to take on this admittedly sensitive, but vital, parenting task before your teen heads off to school or into the work world, you may still be a little uncertain about which method of birth control is best. You may even be remembering your own experience with contraception when you were younger. The good news is, our daughters have excellent options that we didn’t have in the past. They include long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARCs) methods such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and birth control implants.
The IUD is not a new method, but there was a time when it wasn’t recommended for younger women. Research has shown, however, that IUDs are very safe for teenagers, and since they are cost-effective and may be able to prevent pregnancy for up to 12 years, they’re a great option. The birth control implant is a match-size stick that is inserted into a woman’s arm. It lasts up to three years and is also very cost-effective.
LARCs usually have higher up-front costs, but in the long run, they can be the most inexpensive forms of birth control available. And, since they don’t require a person to do or take anything once they’re in place, the rates of unintended pregnancy are significantly lower with LARCs. That’s especially true for teens. A recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that while teen girls had higher rates of unintended pregnancy than adult women when using some contraceptive methods (largely due to incorrect use or discontinuation), the rates for unintended pregnancy while using a LARC method was less than one percent for both teens and adults.
If the thought of helping your teen navigate these decisions feels a bit overwhelming, don’t worry: Many college health centers provide condoms and birth control, and young people can always visit their local Planned Parenthood health center for information and care. Young women can also check out the My Method widget or Bedsider to help them determine which method is best for them.
Just letting our kids know that it’s important for them to be thinking about these things will do a lot to put them at the top of their to-do lists. Finishing school and starting new careers are crucial to our kids’ success. We want to make sure they spend their time learning new skills and preparing themselves for the real world instead of dealing with unintended pregnancy and STDs.
Leslie Kantor is the vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.