Let’s talk about sex: Teens are turning to longer-lasting birth control

But remember, condoms are the only form of birth control that prevent contraction of a sexually transmitted infection. But remember, condoms are the only form of birth control that prevent contraction of a sexually transmitted infection.

It was 2008 when teenagers across the country were rapping along to Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” remix, singing: “Safe sex is great sex, better wear a latex, cause you don’t want that late text, that ‘I think I’m late’ text. So wrap it up.”

But a decade later, it appears as though the rap legend’s socially conscious lyricism is a bit outdated. Condoms are out and birth control implants and intrauterine devices are in—at least that’s the case at UVA’s Teen and Young Adult Health Center, where clinician Dyan Aretakis says about 75 percent of patients requesting birth control choose a contraceptive implant called Nexplanon, or IUDs such as Mirena and Kyleena.

These options are referred to as LARCs, or long-acting reversible contraceptives, and last between three and 10 years. When a patient comes in to the West Main Street clinic to talk about birth control, Aretakis asks them when they’d like to have their first child.

“They say, ‘Not for a long time,’” the clinician says. “And we say, ‘There are only two types you need to look at.’”

The implant and IUD are proven to be significantly more effective than previously popular methods such as condoms and birth control pills.

Adds Aretakis, “When you’re a teenager or in your early 20s, you are so fertile. Why would you use the least effective methods when you’re most fertile?”

Though teens seeking birth control do not need parents’ permission for a prescription or to insert an implant or IUD at a clinic like the Teen and Young Adult Health Center or the Virginia Department of Health, Aretakis says procedures can cost around $2,000 without insurance, and patients do need consent to use their parents’ health insurance.

“To be honest, it’s more of helping a young person figure out how to have that conversation with their parents,” she says. “Most parents do not want their kids pregnant.”

Students in Albemarle County and Charlottesville schools are taught a sex education curriculum called Family Life from kindergarten through high school. It starts with developing an awareness of positive ways in which family members show love and affection, and transitions into studying forms of contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

According to the family life curriculum for ninth-graders in county schools, “the student will identify sexual abstinence as the appropriate choice for adolescents and identify appropriate methods for expressing feelings and affection.”

But the UVA clinic recommends birth control based on the guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says 42 percent of teens from ages 15 to 19 have had sex.

At least one other community resource aims to educate kids beyond abstinence.

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church-Unitarian Universalist on Rugby Road hosts a class called Our Whole Lives, which is a program taught to all age levels in churches across the country. Locally, eighth and ninth grade members of the congregation typically take the course.

“Public schools are probably not where you should get your sex education,” says Lorie Craddock, a 25-year member of the Unitarian Universalist church who has had three children go through the program. “I didn’t have any expectations that city schools were going to have this conversation with my kids—this is something that we as parents were taking care of.”

Before it begins, parents attend an informational session to review course materials. Kids aren’t quick to spill what they learned in their sex ed classes, but Craddock says this way, parents know the drill.

“We certainly knew what they were talking about in class, but they weren’t coming to us saying, ‘Hey, we put a condom on a banana,’” she says.

Topics covered run the gamut, and include sexual orientation, gender expression, pleasure, love making, pregnancy, consent, parties, drugs and more. “I’ve heard from more than one parent—including me—that once your kid goes through this class, they really do become a resource for other kids,” says Craddock. “They know it all. There is no stone left unturned.”

Preventing pregnancy

There are more effective ways to dodge teen pregnancies—25 in Charlottesville in 2015 and 39 in Albemarle—than by using condoms and the pill. Teens are now opting for implant and intrauterine contraceptives, but don’t forget that condoms are the only contraceptive that protect against sexually transmitted infections. Below are the most effective to least effective methods of birth control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Implant: 0.05%

Levonorgestrel intrauterine device (IUD): 0.2%

Copper IUD: 0.8%

Injectable: 6%

Pill: 9%

Patch: 9%

Ring: 9%

Diaphragm: 12%

Male condom: 18%

Female condom: 21%

Withdrawal: 22%

Sponge: 24%

Spermicide: 28%

*Percentages are based on one out of 100 women who experienced an unwanted pregnancy while using each method.

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