There are many different types of contraceptive methods used in America, and according to Guttmacher Institute, a program that promotes sexual and reproductive health worldwide, among teenage girls at risk of unintended pregnancy, 82 percent are currently using contraception.
The age at which a minor is allowed to receive birth control without parental consent can vary according to where they are obtaining it. According to California Family Code 6925, any minor may receive birth control without parental consent, but according to one Planned Parenthood representative in Monterey, the youngest a minor can be to receive birth control without parental consent is 12 years old.
“I have been on birth control since the middle of my freshman year,” one Carmel High School junior girl says. “There are a lot of girls in my grade I know who have also been on birth control just as long as me or longer than me.”
According to Guttmacher Institute and the Planned Parenthood website, birth control pills are the most popular contraceptive method. The pills consist of a combination of estrogen and progestin, or just progestin.
But despite their prevalence among high school students, CUSD nurse Susan Pierszalowski is rarely, if ever, approached about birth control.
“It is interesting that none of the students ever really talk to me or even ask questions about birth control,” Pierszalowski says. “I am always here if anyone has questions about birth control or any health products. That is what I am here for.”
The same junior girl explains, “When I first started birth control, I just got the Depo-Provera shot. It made me gain a lot of weight within the first few weeks and was just a little too permanent for me, so I switched over to the pills and have stayed on them ever since.”
Although the Depo-Provera shot is more permanent, some girls feel that the pills can be an inconvenience.
“When I talk to other girls that are on birth control, they usually tell me that the pills are easier for them,” says a senior girl who gets the Depo-Provera shot. “I think it’s actually kind of a hassle because if you are on the pill you have to take it not only every day, but at the same exact time, so I don’t use them.”
According to the Planned Parenthood website, the Depo-Provera shot is a shot of a hormone that prevents pregnancy for three months. This is one of the most effective birth control methods available, and statistics on the Planned Parenthood website show that if the Depo-Provera shot is used frequently every three months, only 1 in every 100 women will get pregnant.
“Yes, there are some things I don’t like about the shot,” the senior girl says, “like the weight gain and the fact that I have to get pricked by a needle every 12 weeks, but it is worth it to me because at least I know that I’m protected.”
Teens using protection is important not only to teenagers, but to their parents as well.
“I think birth control is very important for sexually active teenagers,” a mother of a senior girl says. “I don’t believe my daughter was sexually active when she had first started birth control her sophomore year, but I knew I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable talking to me about things like this, so just in case we put her on birth control. Now, even if she is sexually active, I know she will be safe, and that’s all that matters.”
Although preventing pregnancies is the most popular reason people start birth control, contraceptives are used for other purposes as well.
“My mom, who is an OB-GYN [Obstetrics and Gynecology], had me start birth control in the middle of eighth grade,” says one senior girl who now has the birth control implant. “I started using them because I had a real tough time when my period would come. I had unbearable cramps and really bad acne, so to control it, I got on the pill.”
According to the Planned Parenthood website, the birth control implant is a thin, flexible plastic implant inserted into the skin of the upper arm. Depending on the type, this method of birth control could last for three to five years.
“I got the implant about two weeks ago,” the senior girl says. “I didn’t like being on the pills any more, and now that I use it more to just prevent pregnancy, I wanted something a little more long-term.”
Most would agree that being sexually active is taking on a responsibility, but is it only the girl’s responsibility to make sure she is on a contraceptive?
When some male students were asked this question, there seemed to be a common opinion.
“No, it is definitely not only the responsibility of the girl,” one senior boy says. “Both the boy and the girl are taking the risk of having a baby, so both of them need to make sure that they are protected.”