The chorus of healthcare professionals endorsing the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) for young women just got a little louder. According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best forms of birth control for teenagers are hormonal implants and IUDs, two methods that are commonly not prescribed for young people despite overwhelming research supporting their effectiveness.
In a report released on Monday, AAP suggests that pediatricians not rely purely on abstinence counseling when informing teens about healthy sexuality, but that they also provide contraceptive options, with a particular emphasis on long-acting methods. The report finds progestin implants, such as Implanon and Nexplanon, to be the top preferred method, followed by IUDs, injectable hormonal birth control and lastly by oral contraception. The reason? A recognition and acceptance of reality: According to the report, "adherence to abstinence is low" for teenagers over time, and male condoms -- which 52 percent of female respondents reported using -- have an 18 percent failure rate with typical use. That means a higher rate of unintended pregnancy that could be avoided with the use of LARCs.
"What has happened in the past 10 years is that there have been increasing data supporting the safety and efficacy of LARC use in teenagers and adolescents," Dr. Mary Ott, one of the lead authors of the new guidelines, told Live Science. "The policy statement reflects that increase in safety and effectiveness."
Ott also noted that many teens often don't choose LARCs because of two primary barriers: cost and accessibility. But, as access to contraception without the burden of cost-sharing increases, higher and higher proportions of young women are choosing long-acting methods. And, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and now the AAP, those are the methods that work.