There are several conversations we have with our children that can be uncomfortable. From the birds and bees to the death of a loved one or a distressing story in the news, there is no single manual to refer to when wondering how to best tackle certain topics.
Sexuality and birth control may just be one of those challenging conversations for families. Studies have shown that teen pregnancies and births have greatly decreased because of teens' increased use of contraceptives in recent years.
When should parents talk to their teenagers about birth control?
I strongly believe that parents should begin talking to their kids about sex, love and birth control before middle school — the younger, the better. It's just too late if they wait until high school.
When is it appropriate for parents and teen girls to consider birth control?
Birth control is not just used to prevent pregnancy. Certain forms of birth control would be appropriate even if a teen girl is not thinking about becoming sexually active, but is experiencing menstruation-related problems, such as irregular, heavy or painful periods, or acne. Birth control can allow these girls to live a much more comfortable life.
What types of birth control do you suggest teens consider?
Because a lot of teen girls can't remember to take a pill every day, I usually recommend a long-acting reversible contraception method. These include implants that are placed under the skin of the upper arm and provide birth control for three years; an intrauterine device (IUD), which is a great option for teenage girls (unless they have recently been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease) and can last three to five years; and the Depo-Provera injection, a shot they must get every three months.
Are IUDs safe?
The past history of IUDs leading to serious infections causes some people to feel hesitation in using them; however, those concerns have been resolved and the new IUDs are safe, more than 99 percent effective and most young women tolerate them well.
What else should teens and their parents know about birth control?
It is very important to note that none of the birth control methods I've discussed protect from sexually transmitted diseases. Teens must always use a condom during sexual activity along with their chosen form of birth control.
What should a teen do if they have sex and did not use birth control or the condom breaks?
I recommend that teens who are not using birth control, but may become sexually active, have emergency contraception on hand, such as the morning-after pill, which is readily available over the counter. The pill can be taken one to five days after unprotected sex. However, if a teen finds herself using emergency contraception more than once, she definitely should consider using a long-acting contraceptive.
"Kids take sexuality a lot more seriously than adults give them credit for," Dr. Journagin says. "Birth control does not promote becoming sexually active and parents should take the time to have a discussion with their children about sex and birth control, and be open and supportive of what their teens have to say."