, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 25-45
Date: 21 Aug 2012

Hormonal Contraception in Adolescents

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Abstract

With the rates of unintended pregnancies in teenagers remaining high, it is crucial to present adolescents with all of the contraceptive options available to them. While barrier methods, for example, male condoms, are easily accessible and do not have adverse effects, their use must be consistent and correct with each act of intercourse. Hormonal contraception affords much better efficacy in preventing pregnancy when used with full compliance.

Oral contraceptives are a popular method of contraception among adolescents and offer many non-contraceptive benefits along with the prevention of pregnancy. They have very few significant adverse effects, which are outweighed by the significant morbidity associated with teenage pregnancies, and can be used by most adolescent females. However, their minor bothersome effects do contribute to the high discontinuation rates seen. In addition, many girls find it difficult to remember to take a pill every day, leading to higher failure rates in teenagers than in adult women. The advent of long-acting, progestogen (progestin)-only methods, such as injectables and implantables, has been generally accepted by adolescents and these methods have proven to be more efficacious by avoiding the need for daily compliance. However, progestogen-only methods cause irregular bleeding and amenorrhea, which is not acceptable to many teenagers. In addition, the most widely used implant was taken off the market a few years ago and newer forms are not yet widely accessible.

Other novel methods are currently available, including the transdermal patch and the vaginal ring. Both are combinations of estrogen and progestogen and have similar efficacy and adverse effect profiles to oral contraceptives. Their use may be associated with greater compliance by adolescents because they also do not require adherence to a daily regimen. However, there may be some drawbacks with these newer methods, for example, visibility of the patch and difficulty with insertion of the vaginal ring.

When regular contraceptive modalities fail, emergency contraception is available. Choices include combination oral contraceptives, progestogen-only pills, mifepristone, or placement of a copper-releasing intrauterine device. These methods can be very useful for preventing pregnancy in adolescents as long as adolescents are aware of their existence and have easy access to them.