Teen pregnancies have declined over the past few decades, but the United States continues to see substantially higher teen birth rates compared to other developed countries.
A new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discusses the use of emergency contraception and how it can reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy in adolescents. The statement, “Emergency Contraception,” will be published in the December 2012 Pediatrics and released online Nov. 26.
According to the AAP, adolescents are more likely to use emergency contraception if it’s prescribed in advance. Many teens continue to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse, and as many as 10 percent are victims of sexual assault. Other indications for use include contraceptive failures (defective or slipped condoms, or missed or late doses of other contraceptives). When used within 120 hours after having unprotected or under-protected sex, selected regimens for emergency contraception, such as Plan B, Next Choice, etc., are the only contraceptive methods to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
According to the AAP, pediatricians can play an important role in counseling patients and providing prescriptions for teens in need of emergency contraception for preventing pregnancy. Patients should also know that emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and pediatricians should discuss the importance of STI testing, or treatment if needed. The AAP also encourages pediatricians to advocate for better insurance coverage and increased access to emergency contraception for teens, regardless of age.