The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wants emergency contraception to be more accessible to young teens. The group released a policy statement on Nov. 25 suggesting that doctors not only write prescriptions for it, but also take preemptive measures to make it easier for teens to use.
Emergency contraception pills, sometimes referred to as Plan B, can safely prevent pregnancy if they are taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex. Under the current federal policy, emergency contraception is available without a prescription for girls 17 and older and boys 18 and older, but younger teens need a prescription if they can access it at all. The AAP argues that if sexually active teens already have this prescription in advance, they will be that much more likely to use it within the appropriate time frame to prevent unplanned pregnancy.
According to the AAP's new guidelines, released in the journal Pediatrics, doctors should talk to teens about emergency contraception, and write them a prescription for it if they are sexually active. They also recommend that school nurses talk more with teens about the availability of emergency contraception and how it should be used.
Having a prescription ready to go can make it more likely that teens will use emergency contraception, said the policy statement's lead author, Dr. Cora Breuner, a professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.
"These methods are absolutely not an abortion," Breuner said. They prevent pregnancies by blocking fertilization.
At present, the U.S. has the highest rate of unplanned teen pregnancies among developed nations. According to the data, about 34 out of every 1,000 women between 15 and 19 years old gave birth in 2010, and three-quarters of these pregnancies were likely unintended.
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