Local Doctors Back Teens' Use of IUDs

Local health officials are backing the nation’s most influential pediatricians group, which said Monday that IUDs are the most effective form of birth control for teenage girls.

“Unfortunately, over 80 percent of pregnancies of adolescents are unplanned,” said Dr. Bruce Kahn, a gynecologist at a Scripps Clinic in Carmel Valley. “And the long-acting form of (this) contraceptive does a great job of that.”

In an updated policy, the American Academy of Pediatrics says teen girls who have sex should use IUDs or hormonal implants — long-acting birth control methods that are effective, safe and easy to use.

Doctors in Carmel Valley said about 20 percent of their teenage patients use long-acting birth control methods and they expect to see this percentage grow.

Among the reasons: IUDs, which are small, T-shaped rods inserted into the uterus, are low maintenance, and don't require teens to remember to take a pill once a day. They also have fewer side effects.

IUDs are safe to use, despite a scare in the 1970s when an early version of the device called the Dalkon Shield was pulled off the market because it was linked to infections and infertility.

Health officials emphasize that abstinence is still the best method of birth control. Teens can get an IUD at any age and are recommended to get one as soon as they become sexually active.

They’re also encouraged to still wear condoms to prevent STDs.

"As a parent, it's important to have these conversations with your children, it's important to keep open lines of communication and the bottom line is an unintended pregnancy can be such a disruption to life, so talking about pregnancy and preventing a pregnancy before it happens is something to be considered,” said Leigh Cataldo, a nurse practitioner in Carmel Valley.

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