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Birth Control and Safe Sex for Minors
Birth control has been around for thousands of years. Today, there are many safe and effective birth control methods available. If you’re reading this page, you may be sexually active or considering having sex. Birth control can help you prevent pregnancy. Some methods also help prevent against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) [link to STI page]. To protect yourself and your future, it’s smart to think ahead about birth control methods and STD protection.
All of us who need birth control want to find the method that is best for us. And different people have different needs when choosing a method. If you are trying to choose, learning about each method may help you make your decision. Use the list of birth control methods below to read about the methods, and don’t be shy about asking your healthcare provider to help you choose the right method for you. Some of things to consider are:
• how well it prevents pregnancy
• how easy it is to use
• whether you need a prescription to get it
• whether it protects against STDs
• whether you have any health problems
What are my options for birth control?
Teens have many options for birth control. Following are some of the most common forms of birth control, along with a description of how they work:
Birth control pills are pills which contains hormones that prevent pregnancy. To be effective, they should be taken every day at the same time each day. There are many types of birth control pills; your health care provider can help you choose the right one for you.
The patch is an adhesive patch, less than two inches square, that is worn on the skin. It contains hormones that are gradually released into your body through the skin. A new patch is worn for a week at a time for three weeks in a row. During the fourth week, a patch is not worn, giving your body time for your menstrual period.
A vaginal ring is a flexible plastic ring that you insert into the upper vagina. It releases hormones into your body. The ring is worn inside the vagina for 21 days and then removed for seven days, giving your body time for your menstrual period. Then you insert a new ring.
Birth Control Shots
This birth control method consists of a shot that is given in the upper arm or buttock every three months. It contains hormones that prevent pregnancy.
The implant is a small plastic rod, about the size of a matchstick, that a healthcare provider inserts under the skin of the upper arm. By gradually releasing hormones, it can protect against pregnancy for three years.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
An IUD is a small, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted by a healthcare provider and left inside the uterus. Two types are available in the United States: the hormonal IUD, which lasts for about five years, and the copper IUD, which can last for as long as 10 years. Recent studies have shown that IUDs are a safe and appropriate birth control method for most adolescents.
Spermacides are chemicals that are put into the vagina to make sperm inactive. Types of spermicides include foam, gel, cream, film (thin sheets), and suppositories (solid inserts that melt after they are inserted into the vagina).
Condoms come in male and female versions. The male condom, or “rubber”, covers the penis and catches the sperm after a man ejaculates. The female condom is a thin plastic pouch that lines the vagina and prevents sperm from reaching the uterus. Condoms can be more effective in preventing pregnancy when used with a spermicide.
The diaphragm is a small, dome-shaped device made out of silicone or latex. It fits inside the vagina and covers the cervix. Diaphragms must be prescribed by a healthcare physician after a pelvic exam to find the right size of diaphragm for you. It always is used with a spermicide, and should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
The cervical cap is a small, thin, thimble-shaped device made out of latex or plastic. It fits tightly over the cervix. Similar to diaphragms, cervical caps must be prescribed by a healthcare physician after a pelvic exam to determine the right size. The cervical cap is always used with a spermicide, and should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
The sponge is a doughnut-shaped device made of soft foam that is coated with spermicide. It is pushed up in the vagina to cover the cervix. Sponges can be bought without a prescription. It should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
What are the most effective forms of birth control?
Short of sterilization (a permanent method), implants and IUDs are the most effective forms of birth control, with less than one pregnancy per 100 women who use these types of birth control. Injection, the pill, the patch, and vaginal rings are the next most effective types, with an average six to nine pregnancies per 100 women. Next come male condoms, cervical caps, the sponge and diaphragms, with an average 12-24 pregnancies per 100 women. Spermicides are least effective, with an average 28 pregnancies per 100 women.
What is emergency birth control?
If you have sex without using birth control or if your birth control method did not work (for instance, the condom broke during sex) emergency birth control can be used to prevent pregnancy. Emergency birth control is available as a copper IUD or in pill form. There are three types of emergency birth control pills. One is available without a prescription if you are 17 years or older, while the two other types always require a prescription. Most emergency birth control pills are most effective when they are taken within three days of unprotected sex. The newest type of emergency birth control pill, called ulipristal, can be effective up to five days after unprotected sex.
Will I need my parent's consent to obtain birth control?
It depends on the type of birth control. While minors have a right to right to reproductive freedom and confidentiality, a parent or legal guardian must provide consent for many medical procedures.