Teens and young adults who opt for hormonal birth control are bypassing the pill and choosing longer term options like injections and implants, said a Baylor College of Medicine expert on teen sexual health.
While these are effective options to prevent pregnancy, they offer no protection against sexually transmitted infections, cautioned Dr Peggy Smith, director of the Baylor Teen Health Clinic.
Two of the more common contraceptives young women choose are Depo-Provera, an injection that lasts 90 days, and Implanon, which is implanted in the arm and provides birth control for three years.
"The birth control pill, although it is widely available and once was considered a revolution in contraception, is old technology for today’s teens," Smith said. "These new options eliminate the once-a-day, every day usage of the pill, which is an issue for young people. They find it easier to use something they can get, and then forget about for 90 days or even longer."
Some teens also are using an intrauterine device, or IUD, such as Mirena, which is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. This option is more common among 20 to 30 year olds, Smith said.
More affordable options
In addition to being more convenient, these methods are also more affordable for teens at high risk for pregnancy, who often are underinsured or uninsured and cannot afford to get a prescription refilled every month, Smith said.
"At the Baylor Teen Health Clinic, we encourage these long-term options because they increase the likelihood that young women will make it through high school without becoming pregnant, and that allows the windows of opportunity to remain open for them," Smith said.
These methods are a huge benefit in terms of preventing pregnancy, but that is only one area of concern in the teen population, Smith said.
Risks of STDs
"Young people simply do not understand the risks associated with sexually transmitted infections and HIV," Smith said. "We talk to them very candidly not only about pregnancy but also STIs and HIV."
The teen clinic uses the ABC model, which urges teens to (A) abstain from sex, but if they choose not to do that to (B) be faithful and (C) use a condom.
"Abstinence is something that should be strongly considered but when teens choose not to be, you have to give them a plan B," Smith said.
(Source: Baylor College of Medicine: February 2010)