Contraceptive Complications

One government agency voices concern over teens and birth control — while another promotes it

A new CDC report sheds light on the latest concerns about sexually active teenage girls. The girls are not using condoms at the rate they should be in order to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, according to the report — especially when they’re using birth control methods in a category called LARC (Long Acting Reversible Contraception).

LARCs include IUDs as well as hormonal implants.

The CDC study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, analyzed data from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, completed by American high school students in grades 9 through 12. The researchers found that teens contract almost 50 percent of all new sexually transmitted diseases, and that IUDs and contraceptive implants are on the rise among this group.

The CDC is concerned that the girls using LARCs are abandoning condom use — and with it, their protection from sexually transmitted infections, or STIs.

“There is a clear need for a concerted effort to improve condom use” among this younger population, the research team wrote. “Adolescent LARC users may be less likely to use condoms for preventing sexually transmitted infections compared with users of moderately effective contraceptive methods (i.e., Depo-Provera injection, patch, ring contraceptives).”

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“That’s why I don’t have sex,” said one Clovis, New Mexico eleventh grader. “I don’t have to worry about all of this, because I’m just not emotionally ready to have sex. My mom is really open, and we talk about sex and its consequences.”

“Condoms are paramount, regardless of the type of contraception you are using,” Dr. Angela Jones, an OB/GYN in Freehold, New Jersey, told LifeZette. “I always counsel patients, and young women in general, that contraception solely helps to prevent pregnancy. Condoms are what will help prevent acquiring — and then I run down the list — gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, HPV, and of course those (conditions) that have no cure: HSV and HIV.”

There is another list teens need to consider, too: a list of potential health risks that come with using contraception in the LARC category.

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The American Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics says side effects of IUDs can include headaches, nausea, depression, and breast tenderness. Potential risks of IUD use include perforation of the uterus wall, as well as pelvic inflammatory disease. And a birth control implant may cause unpredictable bleeding.

Then there is this. While one government agency — the CDC — is carefully measuring the use of LARCs, another government program may be inadvertently contributing to the use of these long-acting contraceptive methods.

A taxpayer-funded Medicaid program in Washington State called Take Charge offers this type of contraception to girls as young as 11 years old — free or charge and without parental consent or notification. That’s right: Take Charge provides girls as young as middle school-age with implanted IUDs.

A spokesperson for that program told students are eligible for a “full array of covered family planning services at school clinics if their parents meet the program’s requirements.” Take Charge is for women of all ages who do not have health insurance.

LifeZette reached out to Washington State Healthcare Authority, which oversees Take Charge, but did not hear back.

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The spokesperson also told that “a student who does not want their parents to know they are seeking reproductive health services is allowed to apply for Take Charge using their own income, and if they are insured under their parents’ plan, the insurance would not be billed.”

In a 2014 Washington University study, researchers examined reproductive health education and trends in teen LARC participation through the Take Charge program in two Washington State high schools, West Seattle High School and Chief Sealth International High School. They found that “school-based health providers often cited their lack of formal training not only in inserting or removing IUDs and contraceptive implants, but also with the procedures in general.”

Health centers at four middle schools and nine high schools in Seattle currently participate in the Take Charge program, according to the Washington State Medicaid website. Other clinics offer services to teens and younger kids as well.

Abstinence is still always the best policy for young people.

“I always recommend abstinence to my younger patients,” said Dr. Jones, the New Jersey OB/GYN. “I always encourage the adolescent, teen, and even the college student to abstain, and I give hugs, high fives, to young people who state they are abstinent. That is something to be proud of! I respect them for that decision a great deal.”

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