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Teen Girls' Health

Prescribe Morning-After Pill to Teens in Advance?

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By Rita Rubin
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 26, 2012 -- Pediatricians should routinely talk to their teen patients about emergency birth control and write them prescriptions for “morning-after pills” so they can get them quickly if necessary, according to a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Although the U.S. teen pregnancy rate has declined over the last two decades, it is still higher than that of other industrialized nations, the academy’s adolescent medicine committee writes in the journal Pediatrics. About 80% of those pregnancies are unintended, resulting from the lack or failure of birth control such as condoms, the pediatricians write.

Morning-after pills can reduce the risk of pregnancy if used within 120 hours of intercourse, but they’re most effective if used within the first 24 hours. They work by preventing ovulation so that the ovaries don’t release eggs.

“Studies have shown that adolescents are more likely to use emergency contraception if it has been prescribed in advance of need,” the pediatricians write. “However, a majority of practicing pediatricians and pediatric residents do not routinely counsel patients about emergency contraception and have not prescribed it.”

The emergency birth control, sold as Plan B, Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, or Next Choice One Dose, is available without a prescription, but federal policy prevents the over-the-counter sale of the birth control to girls under 17. Girls 16 and younger need a prescription.

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