Preventing Teen Pregnancy: A Key Role for Health Care ProvidersPosted on by
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a Vital Signs report about long-acting reversible contraception and the important role health care providers can play in teen pregnancy prevention. While rates of births to teens continue to decline, in 2013 teens ages 15 to 19 delivered more than 273,000 infants. This is still of great concern to all of us.
Few teens use the most effective types of birth control, IUDs and implants, which are also known as long-acting reversible contraception, or LARC. Less than 1% of LARC users become pregnant during the first year after insertion. Not only is LARC very effective, but it also is safe for teens and easy to use. Most teens use condoms or birth control pills, which are less effective at preventing pregnancy when not used consistently and correctly.
There are a number of barriers that make it difficult for teens to access LARC. Many teens know little about LARC, and, because of their age, may think they cannot use LARC. Some providers may lack awareness about the safety and effectiveness of LARC for teens, while others may lack training on insertion and removal of IUDs and implants. Finally, providers may not offer LARC due to high upfront costs for supplies that are often not fully reimbursed.
Health centers that have addressed these barriers have seen increases in teen use of LARC. In this Vital Signs, CDC and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs report on an analysis of clinic data from the Title X National Family Planning Program. Title X is a federally-funded grant program that supports confidential family planning and related preventive services with priority for low-income clients and teens. Title X-funded centers use the latest clinical guidelines on LARC, train providers on LARC insertion and removal, and secure low- or no-cost options for providing birth control. Findings from the Vital Signs report show that use of LARC by teens served at Title X-funded centers increased from less than 1% in 2005 to 7% in 2013. This report also showed considerable geographic variation in the use of LARC by teens, with several states exceeding 15%. This variation suggests that state-based policies and programs may influence teen use of LARC. Finally, Vital Signs provides examples of other state and local programs that succeeded in increasing teen access to LARC by removing barriers and subsequently reported fewer teen pregnancies, births, and abortions.
Health care professionals can play a key role in teen pregnancy prevention by encouraging teens not to have sex and addressing barriers that make it difficult for teens to get LARC. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns.
By Capt. Wanda D. Barfield, MD, MPH Director, Division of Reproductive Health National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Centers for Disease Control and Prevention