Doctors Say Intrauterine Devices or Implants Are the Best Birth Control for Teens

A medical organization recommends the controversial method over oral contraceptives.

By: Melissa Romero

In a move that’s quickly sparked a heated debate on teen pregnancy and contraception, an official medical organization has stated that intrauterine devices or implants are the best forms of contraception for teenagers.

In a statement issued last week, members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that commonly used contraceptive methods, such as condoms and birth control pills are not as reliable as long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) devices. Teenagers in particular are more likely to use these forms of contraception irregularly and incorrectly, contributing to the 82 percent of adolescent, unplanned pregnancies in the US.

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped device containing either copper or hormones that is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. It can be used for up to ten years, depending on the type of IUD. Contraceptive implants work in a similar manner, but are inserted into the upper arm.

Currently, 4.5 percent of females ages 15 to 19 are using LARC as a form of birth control. Even fewer teenagers use contraceptive implants, such as the etonogestrel single-rod implant that was approved by the FDA in 2006. The committee said lack of knowledge, misperceptions, lack of access, and the high cost of LARC methods contribute to the current low rates of use.

The organization describes LARC methods as “top-tier contraceptives,” since using them correctly causes pregnancy rates of less than 1 percent per year. On the other hand, research shows that unintended pregnancy rates for girls who used oral contraceptives and other short-term methods are 22 times higher than those who used LARC.

Still, LARC methods are not miracle workers. Like other forms of birth control, they don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases, so they should be used in conjunction with condoms, the committee said.

For more information on intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants, visit the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ website