Pediatricians can play an important role in counseling patients and providing prescriptions for teens in need of emergency contraception for preventing pregnancy, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The use of emergency contraception and how it can reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy in adolescents is discussed in an AAP policy statement, “Emergency Contraception.”
Teen pregnancies have declined over the past few decades, but teen birth rates continue to be substantially higher in the United States than in other developed countries, according to the AAP.
Adolescents are more likely to use emergency contraception if it’s prescribed in advance, the statement noted. Many teens continue to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse, and as many as 10% are victims of sexual assault. Other indications for use include contraceptive failures (defective or slipped condoms or missed or late doses of other contraceptives).
Selected regimens for emergency contraception, such as Plan B and Next Choice, are the only contraceptive methods to prevent unwanted pregnancy when used within 120 hours after unprotected or underprotected sex, it was noted.
The AAP encourages pediatricians to inform patients that emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and to discuss the importance of STI testing or, if needed, treatment. Pediatricians also are encouraged to advocate for better insurance coverage and increased access to emergency contraception for teens, regardless of age.
The statement will be published in Pediatrics and released online.