What’s the Best Birth Control for Teens?

An Overview of Options, Side Effects, and More

The best birth control for teens wanting to prevent pregnancy is accessible, effective, and easy to use. Implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are often the first choice amongst healthcare practitioners, as they have a high pregnancy prevention rate and you don't need to remember to use them.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reminds sexually active teens that a dual approach is best. That means choosing options that can protect you against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The external condom is the most effective method for preventing STIs and can be used alongside an implant, IUD, or other birth control method.

This article discusses birth control options for teens, including their benefits, risks, and side effects.

Birth Control for Teens - illustration by Theresa Chiechi

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

IUDs and Implants

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods have some of the highest rates of effectiveness in preventing pregnancy.

The American College of Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorse LARC methods as the best contraceptive option for teens, including first-time users.

LARCs include:

  • Implants: A flexible, plastic implant that contains hormones to prevent pregnancy is inserted under the skin in the upper arm. The hormones secreted by the implant prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. This method is 99.95% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • IUDs: This small, flexible T-shaped birth control device is inserted by a healthcare provider into the uterus. The Paragard copper T IUD is 99.2% effective at preventing pregnancy and does not contain hormones, while the levonorgestrel IUD does contain hormones and is 99.8% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Once they are in place, teens don't have to do anything to prevent pregnancy for several years.

However, because LARCs do not protect against STIs, teens will need to use another method of birth control to help prevent infections, like latex external condoms.

The Pill

Birth control pills provide hormones that you take by mouth. They are used daily to prevent pregnancy by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg. The pill contains both female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone.

The minipill only contains progestin and is rarely prescribed for teens.

These are 91% effective at preventing pregnancy when taken daily.

Birth control pills are the best option for teens who need to use birth control to regulate hormone imbalances and their menstrual cycle.


Usually made out of latex, condoms are a barrier method of birth control and can help protect against STIs. There are both external and internal versions of condoms.

An external condom is inserted onto an erect penis, covering the penis head and shaft. It prevents sperm from entering the vagina, collecting it in the condom's tip instead.

A condom must be put on before the penis comes into contact with the vagina because any fluid, even what comes out of the penis before ejaculation, could contain sperm.

The internal condom is a plastic tube with flexible rings at each end. One end of the tube is closed to create a barrier. It is inserted into the vagina prior to having sex and can be used during menstruation.

All types of condoms can be purchased over the counter at drugstores and grocery stores.

With any condom, it's important to use only water-based or silicone-based personal lubricants. Oil-based lubricants can break down the latex and cause condoms to break or leak, offering less protection against pregnancy and STIs.

How Effective Are Condoms?

Latex external condoms offer the best protection against STIs, though they are not 100% effective. External condoms are 82% effective at preventing pregnancy. Internal condoms are 79% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Other Birth Control Options

Although IUDs, implants, the pill, and condoms are most commonly used by teens, there are additional birth control options available.

Short-Acting Hormonal Methods

Birth control pills are one type of short-acting hormonal birth control. Other options, which also contain hormones that prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg, include:

  • The patch: This is a patch containing hormones that are absorbed through the skin. A new patch is applied weekly, except for one week per month during your menstrual cycle. It is 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • The ring: The contraceptive vaginal ring, such as the NuvaRing, is inserted once a month with one week off for your menstrual cycle. It is 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • The shot: The Depo-Provera shot is an injection of progestin every three months. This is 94% effective at preventing pregnancy. If the shots are taken on time every four months, it can be closer to 99% effective.

The Diaphragm

A diaphragm is inserted into the vagina, against the cervix, and acts as a barrier. When filled with spermicide, it can help kill or slow the movement of sperm. It is round, with a rigid rim, and covers a larger space than the cap.

Diaphragms require a pelvic exam to be fitted. If you lose or gain 10 to 15 pounds, you may need to be refitted. Because teens are still growing, this may not be the best option.

Around 12% of diaphragm users get pregnant each year, making it 88% effective. Diaphragms may not protect against some STIs.

What Is Spermicide?

Spermicide is a chemical, usually nonoxynol-9, that kills off sperm or prevents them from "swimming." It is available in foam and cream forms. Some condoms also come with spermicide already on them.

The Cervical Cap

This thimble-shaped cap is usually made of silicone and fits over the cervix. Much like a diaphragm, after it is filled with spermicide to kill or slow the movement of sperm, it is inserted into the vagina and placed around the cervix before having sex.

The cap creates a barrier to block the sperm from entering the uterus, but it may not protect against some STIs.

To be fitted for a cervical cap, you must visit a healthcare provider for a pelvic exam. It's important to keep it in for at least eight hours after intercourse.

About 21% of people get pregnant each year while using cervical caps, making them 79% effective.

The Sponge

The sponge is presoaked in spermicide and is inserted into the vagina, covering the opening of the cervix. It is not as effective as the diaphragm or cervical cap, and it has a higher rate of infections.

The sponge can be purchased over the counter without the need for a pelvic exam or fitting.

The sponge is 68% effective for users who have given birth before. For users who have never had children, it is 84% to 91% effective.

Plan B

Also called the morning-after pill, Plan B is an emergency contraceptive. It is not an abortion pill and doesn’t prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Plan B delivers a high dose of progestin hormones all at once to prevent pregnancy after having sex without a barrier method or if birth control fails (like when a condom breaks).

Plan B is available over the counter in pharmacies and drugstores. You can buy it at any age and do not need to show your ID.

Plan B is more likely to work when taken as soon as possible after sex and can prevent pregnancy for up to five days after intercourse.

Things to Consider

Before choosing a birth control method, there are a few things to think about.

Is There a "Right" Age to Start Birth Control?

Choosing to have sex is a personal decision and there is no "right" age.

What is important is to choose a method that works best for your situation. For example, if you have a very busy schedule or tend to forget things easily then, a longer-acting method may be a better choice than a daily pill.

Is a Pelvic Exam Required?

Certain forms of contraception, like IUDs, diaphragms and cervical caps, require a pelvic exam to measure and place the device.

For people uncomfortable with pelvic exams, you can opt for other forms of birth control. However, a pelvic exam is recommend each year for sexually active people.

You can seek prescription birth control from your regular healthcare practitioner or a health clinic.

Does the Birth Control Method Require Consent?

If you're a minor, some methods of birth control may require consent from a guardian.

The laws vary depending on the state, so check the laws where you live or talk with a healthcare provider.

Can I Change Birth Control Methods?

Yes, many people change birth control methods as their needs change. For example, if someone experiences side effects from one method they may switch to another option or someone may decide to switch from a short-acting to a long-acting method for convenience.

Be sure to talk to a healthcare provider before changing birth control methods so they can help you make the transition safely and effectively.

Common Side Effects and Symptoms

Birth control, especially hormonal birth control, can come with side effects. Talk to your healthcare provider about side effects before choosing a method.

Side effects of hormonal birth control can include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Irregular periods

Spermicide and barrier methods, such as the sponge, can cause itching, irritation, or infection, depending on how someone responds to the chemical ingredients.

The external condom has the least number of side effects of all of the options described here. However, anyone with a latex allergy should avoid latex-based condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps. Polyurethane options are a good alternative.

Methods to Reduce STIs

Only condoms have been proven to reduce the risk of getting STIs, but the type of condom you use matters.

Natural and lambskin condoms do not prevent STIs because they are not a complete barrier method. They have tiny holes that can allow bacteria and viruses through.

Condoms cannot completely prevent against human papillomavirus (HPV) because there are areas outside the condom's barrier of protection where contact with the virus can occur.

There is a highly effective HPV vaccine that can reduce the risk of cervical cancer. It is recommended for all preteens at ages 11–12.

When to Speak to a Healthcare Provider

A sexual relationship carries risks of pregnancy and STIs. If possible, it's helpful to speak with a healthcare provider prior to becoming sexually active. Exploring birth control options that take into account your medical history and medical needs can be helpful.

Not all teenagers will be comfortable speaking with their parents about birth control. It's important for teenagers to have a connection to a healthcare provider, so they can seek birth control when needed and avoid unwanted pregnancy.

Some possible questions to ask a healthcare provider include:

  • What birth control options may help with other health issues, like acne or painful periods?
  • What birth control methods are best if you have an underlying health condition or a history of heart disease or blood clots?
  • How much does the birth control method cost?
  • What are the potential side effects of the birth control methods you're considering?


There are many forms of birth control available, but reputable organizations like the American College of Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend IUDs and implants as the best options for teens.

These will help prevent unwanted pregnancy, but teens should also use a barrier method of birth control, such as condoms, to help protect against STIs.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Can contraception reduce the risk of getting an infection?

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Adolescent pregnancy, contraception, and sexual activity.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Contraception explained: options for teens & adolescents.

  4. Nemours Children's Health. Birth control for teens.

  5. Nemours Children’s Health. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Birth control options.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination: what everyone should know.

By Michelle C. Brooten-Brooks, LMFT
Michelle C. Brooten-Brooks is a licensed marriage and family therapist, health reporter and medical writer with over twenty years of experience in journalism. She has a degree in journalism from The University of Florida and a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy from Valdosta State University.