Physicians support IUDs as best birth control option for teens

For years, health professionals have thought that intrauterine contraceptive devices (or IUDS) are the best and safest option for teenage girls seeking birth control, and this week it became official. On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics officially stated that long-acting reversible contraceptive methods – including the implant and IUDs are the first-choice birth control option for teenagers, stemming from a recommendation by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This recommendation stems from increased knowledge of the safety and effectiveness of these methods, as well as acknowledgment of behavioral trends in teenage birth control use. Hormonal birth control pills needs to be taken on a regular schedule, which teenagers often fail to adhere to. Relying on male condoms does not give the control to teenage girls and has a high rate of resulting unintended pregnancies. And finally, long-acting birth control makes sense for teenagers who won’t be seeking to start a family for a long time but also are not planning to remain abstinent.

Easy access to the safest and most effective methods of birth control is the best way to prevent unintended pregnancy and abortions. However, IUDs are not popular because of their cost and the difficulty of access–for example, a teenager can simply walk to the drug store and buy condoms but choosing an IUD can require multiple physician appointments, and carries the highest up front costs to the consumer. Although IUDS have higher cost-savings in the long-term, they can cost up to one thousand dollars. Many women therefore, cannot afford to purchase IUDs up front and thus rely on cheaper, less effective preventative measures. Additionally, public knowledge is rife with misconceptions about IUDs, from the way in which they prevent pregnancies to the effects they have on women’s long-term ability to conceive after they stop using them. Once inserted, IUDs can prevent pregnancy for up to ten years, and their failure rate is less than one percent. This is compared to the nine percent failure of birth control pills and eighteen percent failure of condoms. And a woman is at risk for pregnancy again as soon as the IUD is removed.

Hopefully, the recent effort to educate the public on the cost-effectiveness and safety of IUDs will help promote new paths for low-income teenagers, whom IUDs could best serve, to gain access to the safe birth control they need.

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