We want teens to know about emergency contraception

We want teens to know about emergency contraception

The FDA announced recently that it is approving Plan B for all girls age 15 and up without a prescription.

This is good news for girls in the US of A. The easier the access to contraception, the less likely girls will have an unintended pregnancy.

As many as 80% of pregnancies in teen girls in the United States are unintended. Most pregnancies are a result of non-use of contraception or mishaps with protection (condoms breaking, pills being missed and/or forgotten or used inconsistently). The birth rate for 15 to 19 year-olds is 34 out of 1000 and although only 13% of 15 year-olds say they have had sex, by the time children head out the door to adulthood, the majority (70%) say they have had sex.

Allowing the majority of teens access to Plan B seems a great step in the right direction in avoiding unintended pregnancies. I was thrilled to see the news tonight about the FDA shifting the age from 17 years down to 15 years. Some 10% of teens report being a victim of sexual assault, putting them at risk for unintended pregnancy.

The Academy of Pediatrics’ policy on emergency contraception has provided comprehensive insight on understanding, prescribing, and using emergency contraception.

What is “emergency contraception?”

Emergency contraception (EC) is the use of hormone pills after sexual assault, unprotected intercourse, or contraceptive failures.Teens and women can take EC after unprotected intercourse, failures in contraception, or after they have been forced to have sex. The pills work similarly to how they work when taken routinely to prevent pregnancy (“the pill”)–they prevent ovulation (eggs being released), disrupt the follicles in the ovary from working properly and ultimately prevent pregnancy from occurring.

Teens can take emergency contraception up to 5 days after sexual activity to reduce the likelihood of getting pregnant. It works best when taken early or even within 24 hours of sexual activity. This is precisely why we want teens to have EC on-hand.

Unfortunately, sexually active teens don’t use contraception like we’d like: only 60% state they used a condom the last time they had sex while 13% of teens state they didn’t use any contraception at all.

Emergency contraception for teens

  • Partnering with a doctor still helps, when teens get prescriptions for emergency contraception ahead of time they are more likely to use it to prevent a pregnancy.
  • Studies find that teens who have access to emergency contraception are not more promiscuous and are NOT less likely to use routine birth control.
  • Emergency contraception (Plan B) is now available over-the-counter for women & men over 15 years of age.
  • Emergency contraception is often sold under the name Plan BPlan B One Step, or Next Choice. These medications contain progestin (a hormone) and are generally very well tolerated. Side effects from these methods tend to be minimal–most often teens report a heavier menstrual cycle but reports of nausea and rarely vomiting should be mentioned as well.
  • Teens and women can also be advised how to use combinations of their own birth control pills as emergency contraception (the Yuzpe method). These combination birth control pills may cause more side effects (nausea/vomiting). You can find out dosing info and read more about emergency contraception here at The Emergency Contraception Website.
  • Emergency Contraception does not prevent or protect against any sexually transmitted diseases. Teens must use condoms as a barrier method to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
  • We want teens to know about emergency contraception. If a pharmacist or pediatrician is opposed to EC, they are obligated to inform teens and women about their use and direct them to a provider that can assist them.

Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician who blogs at Seattle Mama Doc.

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  • bojimbo26

    From what DrJenGunter said , they still have to show ID .

    • Ed

      Well if they must be at least 15 to buy it, then there has to be way to verify their age. Just like getting carded for cigarettes or smokes.

      • Guest

        I can just see a drugstore getting sued because they didn’t card someone, that person ends up having an adverse reaction, and it urns out she was only 13 or something. Oy. Besides, you have to show a DL for antihistamines, why not for abortion pills.

        • Judgeforyourself37

          Plan B is NOT an abortion pill. Read the article again, it PREVENTS OVULATION, thus it prevents pregnancy.

  • Ed

    The next step is to make all oral contraception, not just “emergency” contraception, available over the counter. Doctors hold women and girls to ransom over their BC scripts basically, that should stop. If EC is safe enough to buy without a pap smear and pelvic exam, so is the regular BC.

    And as you say, “The easier the access to contraception, the less likely girls will have an unintended pregnancy.”

    • Rayn

      The only problem with that is so many insurance companies stop covering the cost of medications once they go over the counter. Washington state no longer covers PPIs (even generic omeprazole) even if you were discharged from the hospital with a duodenal ulcer. So instead of a $10- 20 copay people shell out $80 a month for a PPI. Now insurance companies must pay for birth control but one it moves over the counter I am sure they will stop paying.

      • Kim

        You can get a month’s worth of BC pills at Walmart for nine dollars. If a girl makes her boyfriend chip in, that’s only $4.50 a month each.

        Nine dollars a month is not going to break anyone.

        • Guest

          Oh come on. Unless you hand something out for free, you’ve effectively banned it.


        • Judgeforyourself37

          Health care plans cover Cialis and other meds for ED, why not for BC??

          • Guest

            Which insurer provides all the cialis you can eat for free, but not oral bc pills?
            Most insurers would either cover both or neither. And neither would be 100% free, not till Obama made them “free”.

      • Mika

        So instead of a $10- 20 copay people shell out $80 a month for a PPI.


        You can get “Prilosec OTC Acid Reducer, Delayed-Release Tablets, One package of 42-count acid reducer delayed release tablets” (6 weeks supply) for $19.97, free shipping & handling, off Amazon. Why would anyone pay almost 5 times more?

        Taking insurance companies out of the loop usually makes prices go DOWN. Thats why oral contraceptives are so cheap, because insurance didn’t used to always cover them, so there was consumer pressure and shopping around. Now that Obama has decreed that everyone gets all the “free” BC pills they can eat, there’ll be no pressure for the price to be kept low. Companies could rise the price to $100/month and since “someone else” is picking up the tab, the consumer won’t care.

  • http://www.facebook.com/glen.harness Glen E Harness Jr.

    Who needs parental rights these days? The nanny government is going to tell your kid that they don’t need your permission to take this drug and you can’t do a thing about it. But send aspirin to school with your kid and they’ll get suspended. What kind of screwed up government have we gotten ourselves in to?

  • Judgeforyourself37

    Thank goodness Plan B is available OTC. Granted parents say that they “want to know” what their offspring do and be apprised of what medications they take. BUT, often parents are unwilling to discuss safer sexual behavior and hope that these kids will not be sexually active. The facts prove that many teens ARE sexually active and they should be knowledgeable about protecting themselves against pregnancy and, also, sexually transmitted diseases. Plan B will at least prevent and unwanted pregnancy and maybe even an abortion. Abortion opponents should applaud the availability of Plan B.

  • paul jones

    I’d also advocate wanting teens to know about the safest contraceptive of all – chastity!

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