Birth control for teens is not significantly different from birth control for adults. Options range from barrier protection to pills and implants. There is no single best option and people should use what is right for them.

Teenagers may have more difficulty accessing certain types of contraception. Most states allow teenagers to consent to and receive prescription birth control even if a parent does not give permission. However, some only guarantee a teen’s access to birth control in certain circumstances, such as if they are married.

An OB-GYN or a local clinic can help teens understand their options.

Nonprescription contraceptives, such as condoms and spermicide tend to be more accessible. They can be easily purchased from a drugstore.

Read more to learn about the different birth control options for teens, which are best, how to access them, and more.

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No single birth control will work for every person. Teens can choose from a variety of contraceptives such as condoms, birth control pills, implants, and more.

Attending a doctor’s appointment to talk about birth control can be nerve-racking. It may be useful to come prepared with some questions to ask, such as:

  • Do I want a birth control option that may help with other health issues, such as acne or painful periods?
  • Do I have any underlying health condition or a history of heart disease or blood clots?
  • Do I tend to forget things easily? If so, a longer acting method may be a better choice than a daily pill.
  • Does the option I am considering provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? If not, it will be important to use a barrier method, such as condoms.
  • Do I have any barriers to access, such as financial concerns or parents who will not let me get birth control? If so, birth control that is expensive or requires several medical visits may not be a good option.

Birth control for teens falls into three broad categories: long-acting contraceptives, short-acting hormonal contraceptives, and barrier methods.

Long-acting contraceptives

Long-acting contraceptives use an implanted device to prevent pregnancy for many months or years. While this may sound strange, they are easy to insert and forget, making them a good choice for busy or forgetful people. These devices can prevent pregnancy. However, they do not protect against STIs.

There are three types:

  • Hormonal intrauterine device (IUD): This small, flexible T-shaped piece of plastic releases progesterone, a hormone that prevents ovulation. It also prevents an egg from implanting. A hormonal IUD can make periods shorter and lighter, and it may reduce PMS symptoms for some people. A doctor has to place the IUD, and this process can be painful for some people. Most hormonal IUDs last 3–5 years, and they are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Non-hormonal IUD: This small, T-shaped device is made of copper and does not contain any hormones. Instead, it creates an inflammatory response that prevents pregnancy. Non-hormonal IUDs can make periods longer and heavier, and they can last up to 10 years.
  • Hormonal implant: The birth control implant is a match-shaped device that a doctor implants under the skin, usually in the arm. It releases hormones for up to 5 years to protect against pregnancy.

Short-acting hormonal contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives all work in similar ways.

They release progestin — an artificial version of the hormone progesterone — to prevent ovulation, the release of an egg. Additionally, they thicken mucus in the cervix, making it harder for sperm to travel.

This means that even if a person does ovulate, they are unlikely to get pregnant.

Short-acting hormonal birth control options include:

  • Birth control pills: These pills are taken daily and contain a combination of estrogen and progestin. As there are many different types of pills, a doctor can help people find the right option for them. These pills slightly increase the risk of a dangerous blood clot, especially in smokers and people with other risk factors, so they are not a good option for everyone. Progestin-only pills, sometimes called mini pills, may pose a lower risk.
  • Vaginal ring: The vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring a person wears inside their vagina. It releases hormones that prevent pregnancy. A person should change it every 5 weeks.
  • Birth control patch: The releases hormones into the skin and is changed weekly. A person can go patch-free during the week of their period, or if they want to prevent their period, they can keep wearing a birth control patch.
  • Birth control shot: The birth control shot requires an injection of hormones every 3 months. It can be a good option for teens who are able to go to the doctor four times a year and those who worry they will forget to take birth control pills.

These methods have similar effectiveness rates. With perfect use, the odds of pregnancy are less than 1% per year. It is easier to achieve perfect use with the shot since it only requires a person to take medication four times per year. With typical use of hormonal birth controls, pregnancy rates are around 9%.

Barrier methods

Barrier methods create a physical barrier that prevents pregnancy. They include:

  • Condoms: These are the only method that can prevent both pregnancy and STIs. A female condom is placed inside the vagina, and a male condom is placed over the penis. Some condoms contain spermicidal lubricant that kills sperm.
  • Diaphragm and cervical cap: Both diaphragms and cervical caps prevent pregnancy by blocking sperm from entering the cervix, and they are worn inside the vagina.
  • Sponge: This barrier method releases spermicide to kill sperm. It is worn inside the vagina.

Morning-after pill

The morning-after pill, also called Plan B, is an emergency contraceptive. It can prevent pregnancy after a person has sex without a barrier method or has their birth control method fail, such as a condom breaking.

It is not an abortion pill and does not cause an abortion.

Instead, Plan B delivers a high dose of birth control hormones at once. This can either prevent ovulation or make pregnancy more difficult if someone has already ovulated.

A person can buy it over-the-counter in pharmacies and drugstores. There is no age restriction on Plan B, so it is not necessary to show ID when purchasing it.

Preventing pregnancy and preventing STIs are two different things.

While many different types of birth control can prevent pregnancy, the only method that can reduce the risk of STIs is a condom. This is because a condom creates a physical barrier that prevents the exchange of bodily fluids.

However, it is possible to get an STI even while using a condom. The only fully effective method for avoiding STIs is abstinence.

Teens considering having sex should think about getting tested for STIs. And while it can be tricky to talk about, it is important to talk with potential sexual partner(s) about getting tested, too.

Some clinics offer free, confidential STI testing for teens. Learn more here.

Teenagers can buy barrier methods, such as condoms, at most stores. Plan B is available over the counter, too.

If they are worried about a parent or other person seeing them, they can try ordering them online and having them delivered to a collection point or friend’s house.

Teens who want to try prescription, hormone-based methods, or a copper IUD will need to contact a medical professional. They can speak to an OB-GYN, pediatrician, or family doctor about birth control.

If they do not want their parents to know about it or cannot afford care, low cost and free clinics can help. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood can provide various methods of contraception, Plan B, STI testing, and abortions.

Teens can choose from a variety of birth control options. Different types of hormonal and nonhormonal contraception prevent pregnancy. However, condoms are the only method that can protect against STIs.

Organizations such as Planned Parenthood provide free and low cost contraceptives and STI testing.