Last Updated: February 2017
Author: Division of Maternal and Child Health, Vermont Department of Health
The U.S. still has the highest teen birth rate of any industrialized country. Overall, teens use less effective birth control methods and use these methods inconsistently. According to the National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 3 in 10 adolescent girls will become pregnant by age 20. According to a 2015 CDC Vital Signs on teen pregnancy, teen childbearing can carry health, economic, and social costs for mothers and their children. While teen births in the US have declined, more than 273,000 infants were born to teens ages 15 to 19 in 2013. The good news is that more teens are waiting to have sex, and for sexually active teens, nearly 90% used birth control the last time they had sex. However, teens most often use condoms and birth control pills, which are less effective at preventing pregnancy when not used consistently and correctly. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, known as Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC), are the most effective types of birth control for teens. LARC is safe to use, does not require taking a pill each day or doing something each time before having sex, and can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 10 years, depending on the method. Less than 1% of LARC users would become pregnant during the first year of use.
Health care providers can:
- Be prepared to discuss the sexual and reproductive health needs of their patients.
- Recognize LARC as a safe and effective choice of birth control for teens.
- Offer a broad range of birth control options to teens, including LARC, and discuss the pros and cons of each.
- Seek training in LARC insertion and removal, have supplies of LARC available, and explore funding options to cover costs.
- Remind teens that LARC by itself does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases and that condoms should also be used every time they have sex.
Major professional societies, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have endorsed LARC as a first-line contraceptive choice for teens.