In 2008, taxpayers spent about $11 billion on teen pregnancies and childbirth, notes the CDC.

Pros & Cons of Giving Birth Control to Teenagers

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Parents might be hesitant to talk to their teen about birth control out of fear that it will encourage sexual activity. While you may feel it's your duty to promote abstinence, the reality is that 9 in 10 adolescents have had intercourse by their 20th birthday, explains HealthyChildren, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although it may be a hard pill to swallow -- no pun intended -- the pros seem to outweigh the cons when it comes to giving birth control to teens.

1. Significance

In 2011 nearly 330,000 babies were born to young women aged 15 to 19 -- a record low for females in this age range, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 8 percent decline in teen pregnancy rates from 2010 is suspected to be a combination of increased use contraceptive in sexually active teens and more teens choosing abstinence. Teen pregnancy can be tough on both mother and baby. Teen mothers are more likely to quit school and often find it next to impossible to make ends meet. Children born to teen moms tend to have a more dismal future than those born to adult women; they are more likely to be poor students, drop out of high school, have a harder time landing a job and incur more health problems, adds the CDC.

2. Sexually Transmitted Diseases

An alarming number of teens are contracting sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, genital herpes and chlamydia due to unprotected sex. Even more disturbing, an estimated 24,000 young people ages 13 to 24 were infected with the HIV virus in 2007, explains HealthyChildren. Although birth control pills, patches and spermicides won't prevent STDs, condoms can when used correctly and consistently. It's important to note that even condoms are not 100 percent effective at stopping the spread of STDs.

3. Emotional Strife

Giving birth control to teens can help prevent unplanned pregnancies and STDs but it won't stop the emotional strife that engaging in sex may trigger in some young people, warns the Catholic Education Resource Center. More teens might choose abstinence if they were aware of the potential psychological pitfalls of engaging in sex even if it's with a partner they "love." A teen may feel betrayed and taken advantage of when a break-up occurs or they spontaneously decide to have sexual intercourse with a virtual stranger during a one-night stand. Some teens may take on a "once bitten twice shy" frame of mind -- finding it difficult to place their trust in future relationships, adds the CERC.

4. Considerations

Using female contraceptives along with the faithful use of condoms can sharply lower the risk of pregnancy and STDs for sexually active teens. However, teens should not cave into peer pressure simply because sex is "safe." It's important for teens to wait to have sex until they are truly ready, advises Permanente Medical Group. Kids who've already experimented sexually and have come to regret it may still revert to abstinence.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

Photo Credits

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