Keep talking to your teens
It isn’t easy when your children become sexually active. You know it is perfectly normal but you never think your little child will grow up and do grown-up things! It is crucial to try to maintain open conversation about their relationships. It is not often easy but always worth a go. It helps if you are accepting of their partners, whether you like them or not. Their latest flame probably won’t be ‘the one’ so don’t lose too much sleep over them. If you have an open relationship from the start they will probably come to you for advice, but if they don’t you can still help by making information available and heading them in the right direction for the advice they need, albeit from someone else.
Choosing the best method
Choosing the best method of contraception for teens isn’t as easy as you’d think. I was surprised to discover there are 15 types to choose from!
Also things change quickly and advice nowadays is very different from when I was a teenager. The choice of methods has expanded from the standard three we were offered – ‘the pill’, the condom or the coil, which was only advised for older women.
Contraception and contraception services are free and confidential in the UK. This includes people under 16 unless there is concern for a child’s safety.
Contraception available for teens and young adults
- combined pill (‘the pill’)
- condoms (stop a man’s semen coming into contact with his sexual partner)
- contraceptive cap (thin, circular dome inserted into the vagina before sex/diaphragm)
- contraceptive implant (small rod placed under skin to release progestogen into blood)
- contraceptive injection (contraceptive injection which lasts 13 weeks)
- contraceptive patch (sticky patch that releases hormones into your body
- diaphragms (thin, circular dome inserted into the vagina before sex)
- female condoms (worn inside vagina to prevent semen getting to the womb)
- intrauterine device (IUD) (device put into uterus by doctor or nurse)
- Mirena (intrauterine system or IUS) (type of IUD)
- natural family planning
- progestogen-only pill (mini pill)
- vaginal ring (plastic ring placed inside vagina to release continuous dose of the hormones into the blood)
(The final two are the permanent ones i.e. male and female sterilisation)
So, lots to choose from but it is a matter of personal preference, suitability, and requirements.
For example one of my daughters had to try several contraceptive pills to control her painful periods, initially. As she had little success she has recently been offered a coil (IUD). I was quite surprised as I thought they weren’t offered to younger women, but apparently lots of young girls choose them now, over the pill, to reduce the amount of hormones in their bodies and because they have improved so much since I was young.
It can be a bit of a minefield finding the best one to do both jobs, especially as everyone’s bodies are different, periods are unpredictable and very changeable at this young age.
Emergency Contraception For Teens
If you are concerned your teenager has had unprotected sex or thinks their contraception might have failed, they can use emergency contraception. It can be very effective, but it is not as effective as other methods of regular contraception. The emergency IUD is the most effective emergency contraception which was not an option when I was young.
The emergency contraceptive pill I am familiar with, needs to be taken as soon as possible after sex to have the best chance of working.
Emergency contraception is free from several places, but they may not all fit the IUD.
The Contraception Tool
Difficult topic to discuss
If, like many parents, you find it difficult to speak to your teen about contraception and you think they are sexually active then it may be helpful to let them know that they can get free contraception, advice and condoms from:
- most GP surgeries – talk to GP or practice nurse
- community contraceptive clinics (look online for your nearest one)
- GUM clinics (genitourinary medicine)
- sexual health clinics – these offer contraceptive and STI testing
- some young people’s services
It is not always easy to get involved with your teens decisions about contraception. If you ensure they have access to the facts and they know you are available if they want your help, then there is not much more you can do.
If they are happy to have you there, it is a good idea to attend appointments with them especially if they are uncertain of what they need, have difficult periods or other concerns. It can be helpful to have someone to help absorb all the information which can be a bit overwhelming.
Expert advice for teenagers about contraception
What they are and how to use them properly:
Most contraceptive methods protect against pregnancy but won’t protect against catching or passing on a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Condoms are the only method that protects against both STIs and pregnancy. It is therefore important to help your teen understand that they need to use both condoms and their chosen method of contraception.
You can also find out more about all 15 of these options by contacting:
- Brook – the young people’s sexual health charity for under-25s
- fpa – provider of information on individual methods of contraception
- National Sexual Health Line – 0300 123 7123