What’s the Best Birth Control for Teens?

An Overview of Options, Side Effects, and More

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There are many birth control options available to teenagers for pregnancy prevention, avoiding sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and managing monthly cycles and hormones. For sexually active teens, healthcare providers typically prescribe implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) first because of their effectiveness and reliability.

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

Whats the Best Birth Control for Teens?

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What Are the Best Birth Control Options for Teens?

Different types of birth control (contraception) prevent pregnancy differently. Some of the most common methods prevent against pregnancy in a few different ways, including:

  • Barrier methods: Creates a barrier, usually silicone or latex, to prevent sperm from reaching the egg (can include condoms, cervical caps, and diaphragms)
  • Spermicide: Foams or creams containing a chemical, usually nonoxynol-9, that kills off sperm or prevents sperm from moving
  • The pill: Prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs): Prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus
  • Depo-Provera (the shot): Thickens cervical mucus to keep sperm from getting into or implanting in the uterus

Are You Being Pressured to Have Sex?

In a 2019 survey of U.S. high school students, 7% reported that they had been physically forced to have sex when they did not want to. Many more may feel pressured into it. Sex should always be consensual. If anyone is physically forcing, coercing, or pressuring you to have sex with them, seek help from a trusted adult, parent, school counselor, teacher, or healthcare provider. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788.

Condoms

Usually made out of latex, condoms are a barrier method of birth control. There are both male and female versions of condoms.

A male 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 pre-ejaculatory fluid coming from the penis, could contain sperm.

The female 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.

Both male and female 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 STDs.

How Effective Are Condoms?

Latex male condoms offer the best protection against STDs, though they are not 100% effective.

Male condoms are 82% effective at preventing pregnancy. Female condoms are 79% effective at preventing pregnancy.

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 STDs.

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.

Diaphragm

Like the cervical cap, 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 10–15 pounds, you may need to be refitted.

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

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%–91% effective.

Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC)

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods, which include implants and IUDs, have some of the highest rates of effectiveness in 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 STDs, teens will need to use another method of birth control to help prevent infections, like latex male condoms.

The American College of Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorse LARC methods as the best contraceptive option for teens. They 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.

Other Reasons to Use Birth Control

Not every teen who needs birth control is sexually active. Other reasons can include:

  • Hormone-based birth control may reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers and iron deficiency anemia.
  • Birth control pills can also lighten heavy periods, reduce severe cramps, and help hormone-related acne.
  • In the case of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), birth control pills are often prescribed to help control hormone levels and regulate erratic menstrual cycles.

If your periods are heavier than normal, you have severe cramping or fatigue, or your cycles are continuously irregular, speak with your healthcare provider about birth control options to help manage symptoms.

Short-Acting Hormonal Methods

Short-acting hormonal methods release hormones for a short period of time and must be taken daily at around the same time of day. These do not prevent STDs. They are usually around 90% effective at preventing pregnancy and include:

  • The pill and the minipill: Oral contraceptives are hormones in pill form. They are taken 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 it is rarely prescribed for teens. These are 91% effective at preventing pregnancy when taken daily.
  • The patch: This is a transdermal patch containing hormones that are absorbed through the skin. These hormones, as in the pill, prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. A new patch is applied weekly, except for one week per month during your menstrual cycle. They are 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • The ring: The contraceptive vaginal ring, such as the NuvaRing, has hormones that, like the pill and patch, prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. The ring 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 to prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. This is 94% effective at preventing pregnancy. If the shots are taken on time every four months, it can be closer to 99% effective.

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.

Anyone with a latex allergy should avoid latex-based condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps and use other methods.

Birth Control Methods to Reduce STDs

Only condoms have been proven to reduce the risk of getting STDs. The male condom continues to be the most effective method for preventing STDs.

If either partner has a latex allergy, latex must be avoided, but polyurethane condoms are an option.

Natural or lambskin condoms do not prevent STDs, because they are not a complete barrier method. They have tiny holes that can allow sexually transmitted infections 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.

Using Birth Control and Condoms

According to ACOG, the ideal contraceptive practice for teens is dual-method use, which means using condoms along with another effective pregnancy prevention method. Both methods together protect against STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

When to Speak to a Healthcare Provider About Which Option Is Right for You

A sexual relationship carries risks of pregnancy and STDs. If possible, it's helpful to speak with a healthcare provider prior to becoming sexually active. Exploring birth control options that take into account a person's 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.

Summary

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 STDs.

A Word From Verywell

If you are the parent of a teen, talking about sex and birth control may be uncomfortable, but it's an essential conversation to have. It's important to let your child know you that care about them and support them.

Keep in mind that teens are navigating a challenging transition from adolescence to adulthood. They are faced with peer pressure and making decisions that could have major consequences, like becoming sexually active. While they need space and may start pushing you away, they still need your guidance as well as your care and concern for their well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is an IUD the best birth control option for teens?

    An IUD is an implantable device that may or may not include hormones. It may not be the right choice for everyone, but for most teens, IUDs or implants are highly recommended as the best birth control options. This is because once they're inserted or implanted, teens don't have to think about precautions to prevent pregnancy. The American College of Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics endorse IUDs and implants as the best contraceptive option for teens.

  • What is the best birth control for teenagers to treat hormones?

    The best option for treating hormones and hormonal imbalances is the birth control pill.

  • Which birth control for teens will have the least side effects?

    The contraceptive method with the least side effects that offers the best STD protection is the male, or external, condom.

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9 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.
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