Although the 1990s have seen a reduction in unintended pregnancy rates and improved contraceptive-use rates, the negative consequences of unintended pregnancy and STD acquisition continue to plague our youth. Primary health care providers, including pediatricians, play an essential role in further reducing unintended teen pregnancy and STD acquisition rates through the promotion of effective and consistent contraception. Pediatricians need to be aware that now, more than ever, nonhormonal contraceptive methods should be used by every sexually active youth, and counseling of both boys and girls should be routine. Although not as effective at preventing pregnancy as hormonal methods of contraception, many nonhormonal methods provide excellent STD protection. Condoms plus spermicide continue to be a very popular and effective method of pregnancy and STD prevention. The newer polyurethane male and female condoms provide alternative, safe barrier protection, although their efficacy at preventing HIV in vivo needs further study. Diaphragms and cervical caps, in conjunction with spermicide, also provide pregnancy and STD prevention, but not as effectively as male condoms plus spermicide. Although most likely to use condoms in association with another birth control method, adolescents often find dual-method use cumbersome and difficult to comply with. Finally, although IUDs and periodic abstinence are safe methods of birth control for older women in monogamous relationships, they are unlikely to be appropriate for most adolescents. In many respects, we have come full circle back to our 'nonhormonal contraceptive roots.' As we enter the twenty- first century, we have found that no single 'miracle' approach can be used to reduce adolescent pregnancy and STD rates. Rather, pediatricians are obliged to offer nonhormonal methods of contraception, often in conjunction with other birth control methods, as a means of preventing unwanted STDs and pregnancy. Through a comprehensive community approach that uses sex education, abstinence programs, condom-availability programs, and contraceptive-skills training, however, pediatricians can play a central role in the promotion of effective and consistent contraception by adolescents.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health