Beyond Birth Control

5 reasons why your teen may need to be on the pill — and sex isn’t one of them.

Your teen’s doctor just suggested the birth control pill. Before you mutter “I don’t think so,” hold on a minute. There might be a good reason — a medical reason — and it doesn’t mean your teen is going to go out and start having sex.

Teen girls often go on the pill (or another method of hormonal birth control) to regulate their period; control acne, cramps or severe PMS; ease endometriosis pain; or manage polycystic ovary syndrome — among other medical reasons. The pill can regulate certain hormone levels and make life a little more bearable. The pill also helps keep hormones from fluctuating throughout the month.

Here’s how the pill can help:

1. Regulate absent or irregular periods: Athletes, girls who are underweight and those dealing with a lot of stress may not make enough estrogen, which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle. The pill can replace estrogen, which also is important for healthy bones.
2. Ease heavy periods: The pill can make the period lighter, shorter or not happen at all for girls who have heavy periods and are susceptible to anemia.
3. Control acne, cramps and PMS: Sometimes the pill is prescribed for girls with moderate to severe acne or painful cramping. It also can help alleviate severe PMS. All of these are caused by ever-changing hormone levels.
4. Endometriosis: Endometriosis causes severe cramps or pelvic pain during a girl’s menstrual cycle. Some pills can stop a girl from having a period and therefore eliminate these painful symptoms.
5. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): This is caused by a hormone imbalance that brings on irregular periods, acne and excess hair growth. The pill can improve these symptoms.

If your teen’s doctor has recommended the pill, be sure you and your daughter understand the side effects and risks.

Possible side effects (most usually go away within a few months):

•Weight changes
•Sore or enlarged breasts
•Very slightly higher risk of developing blood clots

The main risk is a slightly higher chance of developing blood clots. Ask your doctor about any other risks.

The pill works best if it is taken at the same time every day. If you don’t think your teen can keep up with taking a pill at the same time every day, ask your doctor about other options. There are injections, patches, vaginal rings, under-skin implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) that may control your teen’s symptoms.

Now let’s address the sex part: A lot goes into making the decision to start having sex, and being on birth control is just one factor. If your daughter needs birth control for a medical reason, it’s the perfect opportunity to start an ongoing conversation about sex, even if your daughter seems too young. Maintain an open and welcoming line of communication so that your daughter is comfortable talking to you about sex, and vice versa, and keeps you informed about her relationships. Whether sex is happening or not, be sure she knows that while the pill protects against pregnancy, it does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

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