Purpose of review
In recent years, pregnancy and birth rates among adolescents in the United States have declined to all-time lows, although adolescents in the United States continue to have the highest rate of unintended pregnancy among developed countries. Contraception is a key component in the prevention of unintended pregnancy. In this review, we outline unique barriers to reproductive healthcare for adolescents and strategies to optimally address the contraceptive needs of adolescents.
Adolescents face barriers such as confidentiality, cost, and access when seeking contraception. Counseling about options for contraception may involve parents or guardians when appropriate, but an adolescent's autonomy should be respected in the decision-making process. Contraceptive counseling for adolescents must not be coercive in nature. Adolescents are at an increased risk for acquisition of sexually transmitted infections, and dual use, the use of condoms and an additional method of contraception, is highly recommended. Initiatives that remove the common barriers of cost and access have demonstrated significant success in increasing the use of long-acting reversible contraceptive methods and reducing the rates of unintended pregnancy among adolescents.
Counseling adolescents about contraception requires acknowledgement of the unique barriers that adolescents face and facilitating decision-making about contraceptive methods in a manner that prioritizes the adolescent's autonomy.