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Birth Control Options and Facts for Teens
Sex is a touchy subject, especially for teenagers. It’s a highly personal decision of whether or not to have it. However, pregnancy is most often a very real possibility, and will change your life forever, regardless of how you deal with it.
The best way to prepare yourself for this type of intimacy, you need to do two things.
- Communicate With Your Partner
It takes two to make a baby, and you both need to be on the same page when it comes down to dealing with pregnancy and potential parenthood.
- Educate Yourself About Safe Sex
Unfortunately, sex ed either isn't covered in school, or the information isn't as good as it needs to be.
The issue is complicated, and the ethics behind it is hotly debated. The purpose of this article isn't to determine if birth control is moral or not. That's something everyone needs to determine for themselves.
I'm simply discussing the most common forms of birth control available to teens and providing the most accurate facts that I could find about them.
Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control is one of the most popular and effective methods available. Despite the fact that it's used to prevent pregnancy, doctors prescribe it for various reasons.
This is the disorder where endometrial tissue, also called the uterin lining, grows outside the uterus. It causes extreme pain, and when gone unchecked, can make digestion difficult.
- Mood Disorders
In some women, the fluxuating levels of hormones throughout their cycles causes extreme bouts of anxiety or depression. Regulating those levels correctly can relieve the dramatic cycles, depending on their body chemistry.
- Irregular Periods
If a girl has a period that lasts for more than a week, or bleeds severely enough to make her anemic, some doctors will use birth control to regulate her cycle.
Hormonal birth control may not be for everyone, but it has benefited countless women in different ways for years.
Because they alter your body chemistry, they need to be prescribed by a doctor after an exam. They also need to be listed with other medicines or supplements you may be taking every time you go for a medical appointment. This is because there are certain drugs, like antibiotics, which can effect their performance or cause harmful interactions.
The birth control pill comes in various different forms. Some only have estrogen or progesterone, while others have varying levels of them both. The variety is important, because each woman's body is different. If one type of pill doesn't work for you, your doctor can help you choose a different one to try.
Each type must be taken every day at around the same time every day, and many women carry their birth control with them to more easily remember to take it.
Most packs come with seven pink or blue sugar pills. These are included to help you keep the routine on the days of your cycle.
There's some debate as to whether a period is necessary or not. Some women choose just to go on to the next month's supply of hormonal pills, because they don't want to bleed at all. However, there's also a school of thought that states that the monthly purging of built up material in the uterus is important to a woman's overall health.
When used properly, birth control pills are 99.9% effective. The pills which only contain progestin have an accuracy rate of about 95% effective. However, if you forget a dose, their effectiveness goes down. It’s a good idea to keep condoms or spermicide on hand just in case.
Like all medication, hormonal birth control has side effects, and some of them can be serious.
Common side effects include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Weight gain
- Breast soreness
- Spotting between periods
- Lighter periods
Far less common, especially in teenagers, but still serious side effects are as follow:
- Blood clots
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Severe headache
- Vision problems
If the common side effects don’t go away within the first month, or get too severe to handle, contact your doctor. If any of the serious effects happen, get in touch with your doctor immediately.
Birth Control Implant
These implants are tubes around the size of a matchstick. It's inserted under the skin of the upper arm, on the inner part of the bicep. They secrete progestin and must be replaced every three years.
When you get it, the doctor will first numb the skin before using a type of needle to insert the implant. To remove it, they will make a small cut at the tip of the device and pull it out. Generally, both processes only take a few minutes to complete.
This type of birth control is extremely effective, in part because you don’t have to do anything once it’s put in place. Studies have shown that less than one woman out of 1000 using it become pregnant within the first year.
However, it can be extremely expensive, if your health insurance doesn’t cover it, and if you have problems with needles, the procedure might be difficult to endure.
Most side effects come from the implantation procedure, though some result from the hormone involved.
- Scarring (from the procedure)
- Bruising (from the procedure)
- Infection (from the procedure)
- Pain (from the procedure)
- Swelling (from the procedure)
- Redness (from the procedure)
- Mood changes, including depression (hormonal)
- Irregular periods (hormonal)
- Weight gain (hormonal)
- Nausea (hormonal)
- Abdominal pain (hormonal)
- Acne (hormonal)
- Headaches (hormonal)
- Breast or back pain (hormonal)
- Vaginitis (hormonal)
- Dizziness (hormonal)
If any of these symptoms persist for more than a week or two after implantation, or are severe, get in touch with your doctor for advice.
Birth Control Shot
The Depo Prevera shot is administered every twelve to thirteen weeks by a health care practitioner. This involves a big dose of progestin, which gradually diminishes over the month.
It’s highly effective, sitting at about 99%. Like the implant, it’s nice because you don’t have to do anything, except go every three months to get it. Depending on your insurance situation, it may cost less than using the pill.
Side effects are extremely unlikely in this form of birth control, but still possible.
- Irregular periods (Some women stop getting their period after a year of use)
- Change in mood
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- More facial and body hair
- Bone mineral depletion after extended use
If these symptoms are severe, continue for more than a few weeks or you have questions, contact your doctor or trusted medical professional for advice.
IUD stands for “Intrauterine Device”.
As indicated by the name, this t-shaped device is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus. Once inserted, there’s a string that hangs down through the cervix and into the vagina, which the doctor will use to remove the IUD when it's time to replace or remove it. Your doctor may have you feel for the after it was inserted, so you will be able to tell if it's still in place as time progresses.
These come either copper wrapped or with hormones. Both types work in their own way to kill sperm and provide enough irritation to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.
The copper IUD kills sperm by prompting the woman’s body to produce a fluid comprised of copper ions, white blood cells, prostaglandins and enzymes. Copper is toxic to sperm, as well.
This type of IUD needs to be replaced every 10 years.
IUDs with hormones secrete a form of progestin. The hormone thickens cervical mucus, making it difficult for the sperm to get past it, and discourages the growth of endometrial tissue. This also makes periods lighter and reduces menstrual cramping.
Generally, this choice must be replaced every 5 years.
Like other forms of birth control, the IUD has its own variety of side effects.
- Copper IUDs may increase bleeding and cramping
- There may be spotting for 2-3 days after insertion
- May be expelled from the body, usually in the first few months after insertion. This is more likely in someone who has never had a child.
- Uterine perforation, which usually happens during insertion
- Hormonal IUDs have side effects like the pill and non-cancerous ovarian cysts
More serious side effects are indicative of infection or perforation.
- Sever belly or pelvic pain
- Severe vaginal bleeding
- Passing blood clots
- Foul smelling vaginal discharge and fever with chills
If these side effects appear or you notice the length of the tail changes, get in touch with your doctor.
Some people think using hormonal birth control on teens can be dangerous in the long run. This point of view is based in the fact that a teen's body is still developing and unneeded artificial hormones may interrupt healthy growth.
If this is the case for you or your doctor, there are other options available.
If you can’t afford the medications or an IUD, condoms may be the right choice for you. They’re inexpensive, available at many stores, and free from some clinics.
Condoms work by blocking sperm from getting into the vagina. This also prevents STDs, because the germs can’t get through the barrier they provide.
The only possible side effects to watch out for are allergy on the part of either party. Latex allergy is possible, and can be very painful once it does happen. If this is a problem, other options are sheepskin or polyurethane. These types of condoms are hypoallergenic and work as well as latex.
When used properly, condoms are 97% to 99% effective. Check out the video to the left for guidelines on how to use one correctly and more useful information.
Some people don’t like using condoms, because they may cut down a little on sensation. Others have problems putting them on when they start using condoms or they have a tendency to forget about it in the heat of the moment.
However, practice makes them far easier to use, and habit takes care of the last point. The sensation issue is a matter of personal preference, but there are all kinds of varieties that can enhance sensation for both parties.
Although less popular, a female condom is also available. However, it may be a little more difficult to use, because it must be inserted into the vagina, which can be very awkward. There’s also the possibility that the penis could enter between the condom and the vaginal wall.
There are spermicidal creams and foams are available, too. Many condoms come with spermicide coating the inside but they’re available separately as well. The foam or cream should be applied to the woman's vagina before intercourse for maximum effect.
When used alone, 15 out of 100 women become pregnant, but when you use it with a condom or other birth control method, its effectiveness increases greatly.
Although uncommon, spermicides also have side effects.
- Burning sensation of the genitals for either party
- Urinary and vaginal infections in women
Of course, the only 100% way to avoid pregnancy is to not have intercourse at all. Bear in mind, this also means that sperm should go nowhere near a girl's vulva or vagina. A couple can have a perfectly healthy relationship without sex.
Other less common methods of birth control include the ring, patch, sponge and diaphragm. These methods all have their advantages and disadvantages, but if none of the above don't work for you, they may be worth investigating.
Although teenage sex is a controversial topic, that doesn’t change the fact that it happens. Sex can be enjoyable, and when the right precautions are taken, unwanted pregnancies are less likely to happen.