What Parents Should Know About Emergency Contraception

On November 26, 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement on the use of emergency contraception in adolescents, recommending that teens under the age of 17 years should also have access to emergency contraception without a prescription.

Sobering facts

  • The U.S. still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy among developed countries.
  • An estimated 10 percent of sexually active teens are victims of sexual assault.
  • Many teens still have sex without any protection.
  • Nearly half of teens ages 15-19 years report having been sexually active.

What is emergency contraception?

  • It is intended to prevent pregnancy after intercourse.
  • Typically, it is an oral contraceptive (“the pill”) that is taken in specified doses after sexual intercourse.
  • Emergency contraception is most effective if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, but it can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
  • Indications for use: sexual assault, unprotected sex, condom failure, or missed hormonal contraceptive dosing (e.g., too many missed pills or missed Depo-Provera shot)
  • Emergency contraception is already available without a prescription to teens 17 years of age and older

What should parents know?

  • Pediatricians should be counseling your teens on this topic, as well as on other sexually related topics.
  • In most cases, teens don’t need your permission to obtain contraception. Most states protect the rights of a teenager to obtain contraception without parental consent.
  • In many cases, your teen’s right to confidentiality and healthcare related to these issues prevents a physician from being able to discuss these issues with you without your teen’s consent.
  • Teenagers are more likely to seek necessary health care when they do not fear that their parents will find out.
  • The only type of contraception that protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is condoms. Teens who take the emergency contraception may prevent unwanted pregnancy but they will need an evaluation and counseling for STIs.
  • You should continue to discuss sex (or start if you haven’t) with your teen.

While it is important to talk about your beliefs and values in those discussions, it is also important to discuss the options that are available to your teen, regardless of how you feel about an individual option. Why? Because they can and will get the information elsewhere.

And don’t you want to be involved and make sure your child is getting the right information and healthcare for the decisions they are making?

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