Contraceptive pills are the most common form of contraception during adolescence. They are also the safest way to prevent pregnancy and the most recommended for teenagers and young women. There are different types of hormonal preparations but there is generally a preference for consistent, low dosage contraceptives at the younger ages. Low-dosage pills also carry relatively fewer side effects, such as nausea or headaches.
Furthermore, by taking these pills consistently (every day of the month), girls can avoid confusion and it makes things easier because it becomes routine.
There are different types of hormonal contraceptives – pills (taken orally), skin stickers, a vaginal ring or injections into the muscle. As we have said though, it is best to start with the pills and your doctor can recommend the appropriate type based on the girl’s medical background and other factors. For example, there are pills one can take at a higher dosage with a week’s break between packs. And if the pills are not suitable, you can try out others until you find the best type for you.
Teenage girls considering taking pills for the first time are often faced with emotional or practical difficulties in obtaining a prescription. They don’t always know where they can get a prescription or are scared or embarrassed to ask their parents for help. They may even be wary of asking the family doctor, for fear ‘word may get out,’ and generally young girls are not yet familiar with a gynecologist so they don’t know how to find one who can give them what they need.
Other worries develop following conversations with friends or relatives sharing superstitions or myths about pills affecting fertility or having damaging long-term effects, or other scary stories about complications and terrifying side effects. And sometimes there are even news items citing blood clots or even death as a result of contraceptive pills.
Pills do indeed raise the risk of clotting (thrombosis), but for girls they are considered very safe (unless there is a family history – in young people – of excess clotting, thrombosis in the arms or legs or lungs, strokes or heart attacks.) If for any reason the girl cannot take the pills, the doctor will suggest alternative options.
Parents also find it difficult to initiate conversations about sexual relations and contraception. There are those who believe such conversations will just encourage their daughter to try it out. However, avoiding these topics or making negative or cynical remarks could create obstacles between parents and daughters considering sexual relations, who may have turned to their parents beforehand. Avoidance will not prevent the act and in many cases will even lead to unprotected sex, and the attendant risk of unwanted pregnancy.
Unfortunately, many young girls do not use any contraception when they first have sex. Apart from the health dangers, unprotected sex can cause stress and affect enjoyment. Upon first considering use of pills, it is advisable to turn to one of your parents or older female relatives and ask for help in obtaining a prescription. If this is not possible, you can still turn to a nurse, a family doctor or a gynecologist, who can also create a communication channel with your parents, if necessary.
It is important to note that in addition to their role in preventing pregnancy, contraceptive pills have other health benefits – they reduce the amount and duration of bleeding during your period. Hence they also enhance the body’s iron reserves, reduce the number of tampons or sanitary pads needed during your period and prevent “leakage” on underwear, clothes or bedding. Contraceptive pills are also very effective in lessening “period pains” and reduce painkiller consumption during your period. Studies also show that use of the pills lowers the risk of ovarian and cervical cancer (in older women…)
In summary, when an adolescent girl is considering whether to begin her sexual activity, it is crucial to plan ahead, in terms of pills too. It is preferable to involve an adult you trust but you can also contact the appropriate medical authorities. With all the fears of taking the pills, it is still much better to take them than not and to find yourself with an unwanted pregnancy. You can ask the doctor for low-dosage pills you must take every day, so it becomes part of your routine and eliminates surprises or confusion.
To parents – we recommend initiating preliminary conversations about sexual relations and contraceptives. The first chat can be general and can take place even when the parent is sure that “my daughter is not even thinking about it yet.” The purpose of such a talk is to offer a “hotline” for communication and to encourage the girl to feel free to talk to her parents if and when the need arises.