Teen should get Plan B before they need it, academy says

November 26, 2012 2:47:32 PM PST
Teen pregnancies have declined in the U.S. over the past few decades, but the American Academy of Pediatrics says the birth rates are higher than in other developed countries.

The academy is stepping into a controversial debate with a recommendation it hopes will lower the number of young girls having babies.

Many teens that become pregnant weren't using protection, or that protection, like a condom failed. About 10 percent of teens are the victims of sexual assault. Now the academy is recommending all pediatricians talk to their patients about emergency contraception.

Dr. Penelope Hsu, a pediatrician at New York Hospital Queens, says many parents are in denial about their teenagers having sex.

"I've had many unfortunate instances where parents have found birth control pills and thrown them out, and the kid gets pregnant," Dr. Hsu said

She says many parents also don't talk to their children about safe sex, which includes the use of condoms and birth control pills. But even when girls are on the pill, they don't always take it as prescribed.

"Teenagers in general aren't always compliant with their medications, afraid their parents are going to find it, forget to pick up refill, refill runs out and then you're stuck," Dr. Hsu said.

But there's another option: emergency contraception, often called Plan B. To prevent an unplanned pregnancy, it must be taken within 120 hours after unprotected intercourse.

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending doctors prescribe emergency contraception for all sexually active teens under the age of 17, saying girls are more likely to use the morning after pill if they have it in advance.

"You leave the prescription in your wallet. You don't need it, you don t need it. If you do, it's there and your parents don't need to know," dr. Hsu said.

The academy says pediatricians should also counsel patients, girls and boys, about emergency contraception and safe sex.

"You have to tell them it doesn't protect against std. It's not a free pass to have sex," Dr. Hsu said.

Some parents say easier access to emergency contraception is a good thing.

"Children are going to engage in an activity, regardless of what a parent might say, especially when they're 15 and older," Melissa Selcow said.

Emergency contraception is available without a prescription for girls 17 and over and boys 18 and older. A pilot program in New York City already allows teens to access the contraceptive drug Plan B in 13 New York City schools.

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