The so-called morning after pill may soon be a lot easier for young teenage girls to get their hands on. Currently, only those who are 17 and older can buy emergency contraceptives over-the-counter.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging doctors to offer contraceptives, like Plan B, to all adolescents---regardless of age. The Chicago-based AAP said teen pregnancies have significantly decreased over the past two decades. But the U.S. still has the highest birth rate in adolescents compared to all other developed countries.
“We think the reason that it hasn’t affected the rate of teen pregnancy is because kids don’t know about it, teenagers don’t know about emergency contraception,” said professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital at the University of Washington, Cora Breuner.
“We don’t actually know if that would reduce teen pregnancy because there’s no data showing that advanced prescription will reduce it,” Breuner said. “But we do know that when you do prescribe it, teenagers will use it, as oppose to many of the drugs that we write prescriptions for and people don’t fill, this one, they do.”
Melissa Gilliam, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics at the University of Chicago, said teenage pregnancy is a complex issue that will require many steps to solve. In one week, Gilliam said she treated three 12-year-old girls who were all sexually active.
“I don’t know that we’ll actually see big changes due to this, however, it represents a very important step in the right direction, which is acknowledging adolescent behavior,” Gilliam said. “And instead of saying, 'Oh we don’t want to talk about this because we wish it didn’t exist,' to actually try and have very realistic and practical approaches to preventing teen pregnancy.”
The AAP is pushing for emergency contraceptives to be available over-the-counter to adolescents of all ages and for pediatricians to offer advanced prescriptions and education to their patients.
The recommendation was published in a policy paper today.