There are some topics that are never easy to discuss with your teenager. Birth control is one of them. Like many difficult topics, being hard to talk about doesn't make it any less important. Information about birth control is something you may want your child to get from you, rather than friends or other less reliable sources. It's a matter of your child's health, their ability to make good decisions and possibly even a life or death matter.
Here is some information about the birth control choices available to your teenagers, and some things they should know.
Abstinence, of course, refers to avoiding the hazards of sex by not having sex at all. This is probably the option you hope your child will choose. However, it isn't enough to simply tell them not to have sex. Make sure your child understands the risks of having sexual relationships, including pregnancy and disease, but also emotional consequences. Also make sure your child understands what abstinence is. Some teenagers believe that they can have oral sex and still be technically abstinent, but some STDs are passed orally.
It is also important to understand that if your teenager has already had sex, it is unlikely they will stop because you ask them to. For their health and safety, make sure they know about other forms of birth control.
Birth Control Pills or Patches
Birth control pills are taken daily by women to keep them from getting pregnant. Some teenage girls are put on the pill for other reasons as well, most commonly to regulate irregular periods or control cramping during menstruation.
For birth control pills to be effective, they must be taken every single day. If a dose is missed, the pill no longer protects against pregnancy until after the next period.
Birth control pills do not protect against diseases. While the pill is effective in preventing pregnancy, your teenager is still susceptible to a wide range of STDs, including HIV.
The birth control pill is not safe for women who smoke, as it greatly increases chances of blood clots and stroke.
Birth control patches work much the same way as pills, but only have to be changed once a week. This might be a good choice for a teenager who has trouble remembering a daily pill.
Birth Control Shots and Implants
Implanted birth control releases hormones slowly over the course of about three years. The upside of these implants is that they don't require remembering to take a pill everyday or change a patch once a week.
Like birth control pills, implants do not protect against STDs.
While insurance will sometimes pay for these implants, it may not always pay to remove them. If your teenager will be an adult in three years and no longer insured by you, take this into consideration when considering a birth control implant.
Birth control shots are given once every three months. They are often available inexpensively through county health offices.
Condoms are a barrier method of birth control. They protect against both pregnancy and STDs. They are the only form of birth control available to men.
Condoms must be used correctly, or they may tear or otherwise fail.
Condoms are small enough for adolescents of both sexes to carry with them. They don't require a prescription or doctor's visit and are readily available, making them perhaps the easiest type of birth control to obtain.
Birth control and protection against STDs is not a conversation it is safe to put off because it's uncomfortable to bring up. You may hope and wish, or even expect, your teenager won't have sex--but the truth is it may happen. Waiting until they have a serious boyfriend, relying on your insistence on abstinence or refusing to talk about the topic for fear of giving them permission to have sex are not effective.
The best defense against teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease is open dialogue and an open mind.