Lifestyle & Belief

Teens should use IUDs, hormonal implants as birth control, doctors group says


Prescription contraceptives for women sit on the counter of a drug store in Los Angeles on Aug. 1, 2011.


Kevork Djansezian

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the leading group of gynecologists in the United States, is recommending that teen girls use intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implantable contraception rather than the birth control pill, patch, ring or shot to avoid pregnancy, ABC News reported.

The group also recommends that teens use condoms at all times to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases, CBS News reported.

In guidelines released this week, the group said doctors should discuss IUDs and hormonal implants with sexually active teens at every appointment, CBS News reported.

IUDs are inserted into the uterus and last 5 or 10 years, according to ABC News. Hormonal implants, match-stick-sized rods placed under the skin of the upper arm, prevent pregnancy for three years.

In contrast, birth control options that doctors traditionally offer to teens, like the pill or patch, are short-acting methods of contraception, ABC News reported. They have higher failure rates than long-acting methods, often because teens use them incorrectly or stop using them.

"This recommendation is timely and essential," Dr. Ellen Rome, head of the Center for Adolescent Medicine at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital, told ABC News. "Long-acting reversible contraceptive methods are twice as effective as shorter acting contraceptive methods at reducing teen pregnancy and could make a significant impact in preventing the 750,000 teen pregnancies occurring annually in the United States alone."

Only about 5 percent of sexually active teens use IUDs or implants, the doctors group said, according to CBS News.

Deterrents to IUD and implant use include price – the long-term devices cost hundreds of dollars – and the fact that they require a doctor to insert them, CBS News reported. However, under the new healthcare law, health insurance plans are required to cover birth control without co-payments.

IUDs also got a bad reputation when a device called the Dalkon Shield caused dangerous infections in the 1970s, according to CBS News. But the devices have since improved, doctors said.

"The ones on the market today are extremely safe," Dr. Mary Fournier, an adolescent-medicine specialist at Chicago's Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital who welcomes the new guidelines, told CBS News. "That is what everybody should be telling their patients."

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