Health Care Providers and Teen Pregnancy Prevention
Teen birth rates in the United States have declined to the lowest rates seen in seven decades, yet still rank highest among developed countries. Contributing to this decline are increases in the proportion of teens who have never had sex, combined with increases in contraceptive use among sexually active teens.1,2 As a health care provider, you play a critical role in further reducing teen pregnancy rates through the care you provide to your adolescent patients.
Teens need regular health care services to receive comprehensive sexual and reproductive health counseling about the importance of delaying the initiation of sexual activity and about their contraceptive options. They need counseling on which method would be best for them, and on how to use that method correctly and consistently. Parents and guardians also need guidance and information to help them talk with their teens about sex, pregnancy, and contraception.
What Health Care Providers Can Do
- Make your clinic teen-friendly. Provide your adolescent patients with confidential, private, respectful and culturally competent services, convenient office hours, and complete information. Learn more about the elements of a youth-friendly contraceptive and reproductive health services clinic.
- Learn more about the tools and resources for serving teens, as well as detailed sexually transmitted diseases (STD) guidance.
- Follow professional guidelines that recommend all teens have their first reproductive health visit between ages 11 and 15 years, with regular reproductive health visits throughout the adolescent years. Some discussions, such as sexual history taking and counseling, may best be had privately between the teen and the provider. Other times during the visit it may be important to include the teen’s parents or guardians. Learn more about adolescent reproductive health care—including talking with teen patients and their parents or guardians.
- Recognize that healthy adolescents may safely use any form of highly effective contraceptives, including long acting reversible contraceptives (LARC). Make sure teens who are having sex know about all methods of contraception. Learn more about the U.S. Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptives (MEC).
During the clinic visit:
Counseling, screening, and treating of STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and human papilloma virus are a critical part of adolescent reproductive health visits. Read more to get updated STD screening and treatment guidelines.
- Ask your male and female adolescent patients about their past and current sexual and reproductive history.
- Counsel teens who are not sexually active to continue to wait.
- Counsel those who are sexually active that they can have less sex, or can decide not to have sex at all.
- Counsel sexually active teens on the importance of always using dual methods—such as an IUD or hormonal method, and a condom—to prevent pregnancy, and STDs including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Take the time to help sexually active teen patients make an informed decision about what contraceptive method would suit them best. Counsel them on the importance of and how to use their contraception correctly and consistently.
Let's Talk About Sexual Health
Video for doctors and young adults on how to talk about sexual health.
CDC Medscape Commentary: Teen Pregnancy and Reproductive Health
From CDC Expert Commentary, Teen Pregnancy and Reproductive Health, Wanda D. Barfield, MD, MPH.
CDC TV — A Message to Health Care Professionals: Teen Pregnancy
The video features teens who speak out about how decreasing unintended pregnancy rates in the United States are still too high as every day over a thousand babies are born to teen mothers.
CDC Director Dr. Frieden discusses Teen Pregnancy on Medscape
Three Winnable Battles and Other Wars: A Talk With Thomas Frieden. Interview with Eli Y. Adashi, MD and Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH.
Teen Pregnancy Social Media Tool Kit
Take advantage of social media tools with credible, science-based teen pregnancy prevention messages from the CDC. These free, easy-to-use communication tools can help expand the reach of your health messages and promote your teen pregnancy prevention efforts.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Adolescent Health Care
(some sections are available to members only)
Get Yourself Tested (GYT) Campaign’s Clinic Tools and Resources
With a focus on STDs, the GYT Web site offers resources to help providers better serve your teen and young adult patients. Here you will find resources for talking with patients about sexual history, training resources, materials for your clinic, and information on billing for confidential services. You also will find teen-friendly office tips, and information on dealing with consent and confidentiality issues that are so important to adolescent patients.
2 Santelli JS, Lindberg LD, Finer LB, Singh S. Explaining recent declines in adolescent pregnancy in the United States: the contribution of abstinence and improved contraceptive use. Am J Public Health. 2007;97:150-156.
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