Long-term birth control 'best for teens'25th September 2012
New guidelines from US researchers suggest that the safest forms of contraception for teenage girls are intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants.
A leading doctors' group says that more than 40% of teenagers are sexually active, and that most of them use some kind of birth control.
However, only one in 20 opts for the most effective forms of contraception, possibly a factor behind the 82% of teenage pregnancies that are unplanned.
According to new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), intrauterine devices and birth-control implants are the best reversible methods for preventing unintended pregnancy, rapid repeat pregnancy, and abortion in young women.
While condoms and oral contraceptives have a high reliability rating if used properly, they often fail through human error.
Condoms can break if used wrongly, or with not enough lubricant, while missing a dose of a birth control pill can raise the risk of pregnancy.
Teenagers are at greater risk of unwanted pregnancies through the use of such methods, ACOG argues.
The group suggests using IUDs and implants, which work just as well in teenagers as they do in adult women.
IUDs are a T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus, albeit sometimes painfully, but which can prevent pregnancy for more than a decade.
While it must be inserted by a trained healthcare professional, it can be easily removed on request.
Cost could be a barrier to some teenagers in acquiring access to such contraceptive choices, however.
An IUD in the US can cost anything up to £600 to have inserted. Birth-control implants are small rods which release hormones over the course of three years that prevent pregnancy. They, too, can be removed at any time and must be inserted by a professional, costing up to £500.
However, the ACOG guidelines say that contraception should be the choice of individual who is getting it.
They suggest that healthcare providers make such methods available to teenagers and protect their confidentiality, which is of particular importance to adolescents.
While 21 US states require no consent from anyone other than the person seeking contraception, 25 states still restrict birth control services to minors who are married, or who have a doctor's or parent's consent, or who can demonstrate a certain level of educational ability or emotional maturity.
However, teenagers who wish to avoid using their parents' insurance because of concerns over confidentiality may not be able to afford more reliable contraception.
The guidelines suggest referral to a publicly funded clinic. It said healthcare reforms should incorporate long-term contraception methods and make them available at no cost to the user.
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