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Doctors Recommend IUDs for Sexually Active Teens

Update Date: Sep 29, 2014 11:23 AM EDT

Sexually active people, regardless of age, should use some kind of birth control if they are not looking to get pregnant. For teenagers, in particular, doctors from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are urging them to pick intrauterine devices (IUDs) as their first choice of birth control.

According to the pediatricians, the majority of sexually active teens and adults from the United States tend to pick condoms or birth control pills. Even though these options are effective, they are not the best choices for the youth. Instead, the experts stated that the "first-line" option for teen girls should be IUDs and contraceptive implants.

IUDs, which often have a "T" shape, are implanted inside the uterus. They work by releasing low doses of copper or the hormone, progestin. According to Planned Parenthood, the copper IUD sold as ParaGard can prevent pregnancy for around 10 years whereas the hormonal IUD, sold under Mirena, can prevent pregnancy for five years. The other option, the contraceptive implant, which is about the size of a matchstick, is implanted under the skin of the arm. It works by releasing progestin and can be effective for up to three years.

"I'm happy to see that every major medical or public health organization in the United States agree that IUDs and implants should be the 'default' first-line contraceptive methods for all women and girls who want them," said Dr. David Eisenberg, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved with the study according to Philly.

IUDs and contraceptive implants are considered more effective forms of birth control for the youth and even adults because once the devices are implanted, they work to prevent pregnancy on their own. When it comes to the other options, teens can forget to use condoms or forget to take a pill, which increases their risk of getting pregnant.

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculated that unplanned pregnancy happens to about nine percent of women on birth control pills and between 18 and 21 percent of women who use condoms only. The unplanned pregnancy prevalence rates are between 0.2 and 0.8 percent for women on IUD and 0.05 percent for women with a contraceptive implant.

Even though IUDs and contraceptive implants are recommended, experts noted that there could be certain hurdles in the way. For example, these two options are more expensive. IUDs can cost between $500 and $1,000 whereas contraceptive implants can costs anywhere from $400 to $800. However, more insurance companies are starting to cover some of these costs. Another reason why teens might not get IUDs and contraceptive implants is due to the fact that in some states, minors need parental permission. One more reason that the experts found is the lack of awareness about these options. In order for teens to get IUDs and contraceptive implants, they must first be properly educated about them.

The latest guidelines are in line with those drafted by other medical groups, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The guidelines were published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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