Whether you are male or female, your life can suddenly be changed forever by pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Think for a moment what this would be like for you.
The most dependable way to prevent pregnancy and STD infection is not to have sexual intercourse. This is called abstinence.
If you do not choose abstinence and are sexually active, always be prepared. To protect yourself and your future, think ahead about birth control methods and STD protection. Never have sex without protection. Using condoms will reduce your risk of getting an STD.
Even a single act of sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancy or an STD infection. A sexually active teen (boy or girl) who is not using any birth control has a 90% chance of conceiving a pregnancy within 1 year.
Take charge of your health and your future
Even if you plan not to have sex until you’re older, take a little time to learn and decide about:
- Which birth control methods are available.
- Which birth control methods you know you would be able to count on every time you’d need one.
- How to use a condom to avoid getting or spreading a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV. (Some STDs can be spread through oral sex as well as through intercourse.) If you are sexually active, male or female, always have a condom with you. Don’t ever depend on someone else to have a condom when you need it.
- How to use a combination of methods for the best protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
It may not be easy to talk about sexual activity and birth control, but it is important that you know how to practice safe sex. Hopefully, you have a parent, school or church counselor, or health professional that you feel comfortable talking to. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood are private, confidential resources for learning how to be both sexual and responsible. See the Planned Parenthood Web site for teens at http://www.teenwire.com, or check your telephone listings for the Planned Parenthood office near you.
The best birth control methods for you are those that are easy for you to use (or are already in effect) each time you have intercourse. Follow up regularly with a health professional to make sure that your birth control method is working effectively for you. And if you have any side effects that are making it hard for you to use the method as directed, choose a different method.
If you have a long-term (chronic) illness or a disability, talk to a health professional about which birth control choices are best for you.
For teen boys and girls
Protect yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
- Consider the benefits of abstinence.
- If you have sex, use a condom.
- If your partner is not comfortable with using a condom, don’t have sex.
- To prevent pregnancy, use another method of birth control (such as birth control pills) along with the condom.
For teen girls
Some teenage girls are worried about visiting a health professional for birth control.
- Don’t be shy about protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases by having a condom on hand and asking your partner to use it. Or you can use a female condom.
- If you are concerned about having a pelvic exam or keeping your health information private, talk to your health professional or a family planning clinic counselor.
- If you have not been sexually active before now, a pelvic exam may not be necessary.
- If you have been sexually active, it’s very important that you are screened for STDs every year. Some STDs can be screened for with a urine test. You may not need a Pap test and pelvic exam until 2 to 3 years after you become sexually active. (A Pap test checks for early signs of cervical cancer, which starts from a sexually transmitted virus, a type of human papillomavirus.)
- Have emergency contraception on hand or know how to get it if a condom breaks.
Before choosing and using a birth control method, be honest with yourself. If it failed and you started a pregnancy, what would you do? Are you ready to raise a child? Is an abortion an acceptable option for you? Answering these questions can help you know how committed you are to preventing a pregnancy. For most sexually active teens, it is worth it to use the most effective birth control methods possible.
When choosing a birth control method, also consider protecting yourself against sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms give the most effective STD protection for both partners, no matter what other birth control method you are using. Some studies suggest that female condoms are as effective as male condoms in preventing STDs.However, as birth control, condoms used alone are not highly dependable.
|Hormonal pill, skin patch, or vaginal ring||
|Hormonal implants (Implanon)||
|Hormone injection (Depo-Provera)||
|Intrauterine device (IUD)||
|Fertility awareness||This is not recommended, especially for teenagers, because it:
Emergency contraception is the use of either a copper intrauterine device (IUD) or a certain type of birth control pill on a specific dosing schedule. The pills can prevent a pregnancy when taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex, although they are most effective when used within 72 hours. Using a copper IUD can prevent pregnancy if it is inserted within 5 to 7 days after you have had unprotected sex.
If you have had unprotected sexual intercourse or you think your birth control method may have failed, emergency contraception is a backup to prevent a pregnancy.
Experts recommend having a prescription for emergency contraception on hand (if not the actual pills) so that it is readily available should you ever need it.1 Talk to your health professional or a family planning clinic about this.
If you do use emergency contraception, be sure to follow up with your health professional to find an effective, ongoing method of birth control.
For more information, see the Emergency Contraception Web site at http://ec.princeton.edu/.