What Is Birth Control?

It is important for teens to think about their reasons for having sex. Here are some not-so-good reasons:

  • Having sex maintains and improves the relationship

  • Sex makes you seem cool and more adult to others

  • Curiosity

  • “It just happened”

  • Desire to be popular and accepted

  • All your friends are “doing it”

  • Someone dared you to do it or pressured you into it

Whatever your reason is for having sex, it is your responsibility to have safer sex. Safer sex means protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and protecting yourself or your partner from pregnancy. Abstinence—not having oral, anal, or vaginal sex—is the only true form of safe sex. It is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and diseases. For those who choose to have sex, there are many ways to make it safer. If you choose to have sex, you must consider the consequences and take the appropriate and responsible measures to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Whatever type of birth control you choose, it should offer dual-protection. First, it should protect against pregnancy. But second--and just as important--it should protect against potentially deadline sexually transmitted diseases like the HIV virus (which causes AIDS) as well as genital herpes and others. Effective contraception must serve these two critical purposes.

In recent years, there has been a decrease in teen pregnancies in the United States. A 2013 study published in the U.S. medical journal Pediatrics says the current number of sexually active teens is lower than any time in the past twenty-five years. According to a 2016 report in the New England Journal of Medicine, unplanned teen pregnancies declined 28 percent just between 2008 and 2011 (the latest years for which researchers examined data). Health experts credit that drop with more teens using long-lasting reversible birth control methods. Teens in the United States still have more unintended pregnancies than teens in most other developed countries. But more teenagers are now getting the facts and acting responsibly about sex.

Birth Control Options

Choosing a birth control method is a big decision. Talking with your health-care provider is a good way to figure out which method is right for you. You can also talk to your partner, close friend, parent, or another trusted adult to see if they can help you make a decision. Also, if you do not like one method, you can always try another. There are plenty of different options, so you should be able to find one that works for you.

You should know that over-the-counter birth control is available for people of all ages, without a parent’s permission. Depending on your age and where you live, you may need parental consent to receive prescription birth control like the Pill or the Depo Provera shot. Many health care providers will respect your right to privacy if you ask for birth control, unless you live in an area where you cannot get health services without parental permission. If you can talk to your parents about your decision to use birth control, that is great. However, if you can’t, you should double-check with your health-care provider about what will be billed and if they will be contacting you by phone or mail. You can ask about a hospital, doctor, or clinic’s confidentiality rules before you make an appointment. Several states, including California, Oregon, Colorado, Washington state, and Washington, D.C., have made birth control like the Pill, patch, and contraceptive ring available from pharmacists for girls and women of all ages without a doctor’s prescription. Oregon did the same for women age 18 and older. Washington, D.C. and Washington State also allow access without a prescription.

Discussing birth control can be awkward and scary. It means not only talking about sex, but also talking about trust and honesty. If you are not able to talk about these things with your partner, perhaps you are not ready to be sexually active with him or her.

When it comes to safer sex, people need to be comfortable not only with each other, but also with themselves. They need to know the facts and feel comfortable talking about their bodies. In addition to being able to talk about their bodies, they should get to know their own bodies. In the end, it is up to you to act responsibly.

Many different kinds of birth control methods are available today. You should ask yourself four things when deciding on the form of birth control that is best for you and your partner:

  • How effective is it in preventing pregnancy and diseases?

  • How safe is it to use?

  • Will it fit into my lifestyle?

  • Can I afford it?

Some birth control methods are more effective and safe than others. If a contraceptive—any drug or device that prevents pregnancy—is not used in the right way, it will not work properly and you will run the risk of an unintended pregnancy.

Many young people think of birth control as a nuisance. Some feel it is not easy to use. Others feel it spoils the sexual mood. However, using birth control is smart and will prevent potentially serious problems in the future.

Use of each type of method requires advance planning. Some kinds of birth control can be put in place hours before sex, while others must be used right before having sex. Only the morning-after pill can be used after sex. It is intended for emergency use only, not routine contraception.

The minute or two it takes to use a contraceptive can make a big difference in protecting your health. A contraceptive can save your life and prevent an unintended pregnancy.

What’s On the Market

There are many legally sold contraceptives that are safe to use, although some may have side effects if you use them for a long time. The use of some contraceptives is riskier for some people than for others.

Not every birth control method is right for every person. That is why you should speak with a doctor before you have sex. Your doctor can help you figure out which methods are best for you. If you are female, your doctor can discuss prescription medication such as the contraceptive shot or the birth control pill with you and whether or not it’s the right choice for you, given your needs, lifestyle, and particular health concerns. If you decide this type of birth control is for you, your doctor can prescribe it. Other products must also be prescribed and fitted by a doctor. For instance, a doctor helps fit women for diaphragms to make sure they will work properly.

Things to Keep in Mind

  1. The only certain way to avoid pregnancy and contracting an STD is by not having sex (abstinence).

  2. Each birth control method carries some potential risk to health. You should be well informed about the risks you are taking to be certain that your decisions are the right ones for you.

  3. No method or product is 100 percent failure-proof. But most products are reliable. With regular, proper use, the chances of becoming pregnant are very small.

  4. Some birth control methods have extra benefits, like preventing sexually transmitted diseases. For example, the condom greatly reduces the chances of spreading the AIDS virus.