Pediatricians: Prescribe teens emergency contraception before they need it
November 26th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Pediatricians: Prescribe teens emergency contraception before they need it

The American Academy of Pediatrics is fighting back against teen pregnancy with revised recommendations on emergency contraception. The organization is encouraging physicians to talk about medications like Plan B and Next Choice in their discussions with their adolescent patients - both boys and girls - on safe sex.

The United States has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy among developed countries.  Nearly 80% of teen pregnancies are unplanned, a result of contraception failure or nonuse, according to the AAP.

The use of emergency contraception has been around since the 1970s, when doctors often advised patients to double up on their regular birth control pills in a method called "Yuzpe." Since then several products have been approved for use by prescription and over-the-counter. Yet lead author Dr. Cora Beurner said there are still many people who don’t know about emergency contraception or have unfounded fears about using it.

Emergency contraception is designed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. It works by inhibiting ovulation and disrupting the production of key cells needed in a woman’s body to conceive.  It works best if taken up to 24 hours after intercourse, although it lowers pregnancy risk if taken within 120 hours (five days).  It will not work if you are already pregnant.

Emergency contraception is available with a prescription for all patients and available over-the-counter for women over the age of 17.  The pills cost around $80.

Most pediatricians are accustomed to discussing safe sex with their patients, according to Beurner, a professor of adolescent medicine and pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle. The AAP is recommending doctors have emergency contraception on hand for those who need it right away and be willing to write teenagers a prescription for Plan B or Next Choice for future use.

“They can keep the prescription in their wallet and if they have the need for it, they could go anywhere," Beurner said. "This is a ‘just-in-case.'"

It should be emphasized to patients that emergency contraception is solely for emergencies, the AAP statement notes, and should not be used as a regular method to prevent pregnancy.

There are no serious side effects to emergency contraception, Beurner said.  Although parents are often concerned that having a “back-up” will increase a teen’s risky behavior, studies have shown that not to be the case.

Even if a physician is morally against emergency contraception, they have an obligation to offer the option to their patients, the AAP statement says.

soundoff (245 Responses)
  1. rc

    Adults need to learn how to abstain from sex, and teach their kids how to abstain from sex as well. You can't get pregnant if you don't have sex. If more people would abstain, it would be easier to deal with exceptions to the rule such as rape, rather than sending the self-contradicting message "don't have sex...but if you do, use protection".

    November 26, 2012 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maya

      Same argument applies against seat belts. In either application, the argument is invalid as a non sequitur.

      November 26, 2012 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
    • CosmicC

      I guess you don't realize that not everyone shares your view on sex.

      November 26, 2012 at 17:45 | Report abuse |
  2. Observer

    Abstinence works. Ask Sarah Palin's family.

    November 26, 2012 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • I call BS

      Haha, Observer.

      November 26, 2012 at 20:08 | Report abuse |
  3. WakeUpPeople

    If you are relying upon EMERGENCY contraception to are exposing yourself to HIV infection, which eventually creates AIDS. Don't be dumb. Use a condom with spermicide ALWAYS... or abstain. It's your life. You only get one. Protect it.

    November 26, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WakeUpPeople

      CORRECTION: If you are relying upon EMERGENCY contraception YOU are exposing yourself to an HIV infection, which eventually, causes AIDS. Don't be dumb. Use a condom with spermicide ALWAYS... or abstain. It's your life. You only get one. Protect it.

      November 26, 2012 at 15:31 | Report abuse |
    • CosmicC

      Yeah, and that works so well when you're being raped.

      November 26, 2012 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
  4. Jack Kieser

    Condoms ARE contraceptives. If you outlaw contraceptives, you're outlawing condoms. Don't be an idiot.

    November 26, 2012 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WakeUpPeople


      November 26, 2012 at 15:50 | Report abuse |
    • evan

      who is outlawing contraceptives?

      November 26, 2012 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  5. JoeSeattle

    I love all the high-ground chat from those of you who can't conceive of any higher purpose than sex. Of course emergency contraception should be out there – for the losers who need it.

    Only loser teens on the road to become loser adults are sexually active. But squatting in poverty, perchance with babies from miscellaneous fathers, they'll all whine about how unfair it is that those who had some self control (the one's not on welfare or working fast food or some other dead-end job) don't want them and their sexual casefiles when they consider a serious life-partner. Do what you want. Teach your children whatever you want. But don't expect mine to have anything to do with them beyond handing them money across a fastfood service counter.

    November 26, 2012 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • femfilly

      Wow, your blanket statements really speak to each person's experience... not.

      November 26, 2012 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
    • CosmicC

      1) I hope your children are wiser than you, but chances are they are not. Such a blind approach usually leads teenagers to be LESS likely to abstain because they do not have the information they need to make an informed choice.
      2) That still doesn't help victims of rape.

      November 26, 2012 at 17:12 | Report abuse |
    • James PDX

      Joe, why do you think all of your children will work in fast food? Is Starbucks the only company hiring up there?

      November 26, 2012 at 17:39 | Report abuse |
    • Nina

      It will be quite funny when you find out (or admit) that your kids are having sex (or will be having when they become teens)...Go ahead and pretend it is not the case and don't teach or guide them on how to prevent a pregnancy or catching a disease. Just so you know, your speech "only loser teens are sexually active" will not stop them if they decide they want to have sex because it is their choice, not yours... Let's just hope they will have more common sense than you and learn how to prevent a pregnancy, otherwise we will be giving your kids money in a fast food place (or welfare) since you failed as a parent to guide them so they could choose for themselves.

      November 27, 2012 at 08:30 | Report abuse |
  6. georgieboy

    Unless you are going to go to their homes each day and pop a pill into their mouths, this is a waste of time. The irresponsible will always be irresponsible. Birth control has been free for years for anyone willing to go to the free clinic. But, you have to actually get up off your butt and go.

    November 26, 2012 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • femfilly

      Available for free to people who know about it, have the means to get to a free clinic, and don't have to be afraid of their family or partner for taking it.

      November 26, 2012 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • I call BS

      That's why it's EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION, dear. Because the person who needs it didn't have protection. What do you want to do? Have them shot at sunrise by a firing squad? What do you care if a girl had s3x and now wants to prevent a pregnancy that might result from it, even if it's after the fact?

      Don't you have anything ELSE to worry about?

      November 26, 2012 at 20:13 | Report abuse |
  7. Junebug

    How about an aspirin? Just put it between your legs and keep it there. Kind of difficult to get pregnant that way.

    November 26, 2012 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sporky

      Really? I've managed to have plenty of sex with my legs closed.

      November 26, 2012 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
    • Gordon

      Isn't that the Rick Santorum plan?

      November 29, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
  8. KoalaBear

    These are meant to be used as a LAST-resort back up plan, not something to be abused. For example, what happens when a condom breaks? This could happen to even the most careful and mature couple. This contraceptive is not meant to be used as the main method of birth control.

    November 26, 2012 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jasmere

    Religion has nothing to do with – this is just plain common sense. You can't rely on how clean a person may look or act etc, the point is use protection. If you need an emergency contraceptive- then use it but I don't agree on this being an every day thing to use. with any medication there is side effects, use condoms -and if unsure – use the a back up method – like maybe even IUD.

    November 26, 2012 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • beagle

      IUD is not an option unless you have already had children. Additionally, no one in this article has advocated the use of emergency contraception as a regular form of birth control....that's why they call it EMERGENCY contraception.

      November 26, 2012 at 16:43 | Report abuse |
  10. Truth Still Matters

    It's irresponsible for anyone to put this misleading information out there, calling this 'safe' is insane. Ask the father of Holly Patterson and others who have lost their daughters to this so-called 'safe' alternative. CNN you need more responsible reporters. There WAS a story on Web MD about this - they've taken it down now, I see, pressure from the pharmaceutical industry no doubt? At $80.00 a pill, any one can do the math here. The Pediatric Association that's putting this information out there should be taken to task for the inaccuracy of their press releases.

    November 26, 2012 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • beagle

      You do realize that Holly Patterson used Mifeprex, a drug used to induce abortion, which was provided to her by an abortion clinic (the only legal way it can be distributed in the U.S.), and that this article is about Plan B, a completely different drug which will not terminate a pregnancy (if you had read the article you would have known this because it is clearly stated). It seems that you are the one that needs to work on your reporting, not CNN....BTW the cause of Holly's death was septic shock, not the abortion drug itself. While her death is tragic, it was utterly preventable with proper education and treatment. It is, in fact, people like you, who want to limit a woman's access to health care of this type, who are contributing to this type of death. If we had a more advanced women's health care system, where women were treated with dignity and respect rather than social pariah's for wanting to make decisions about their own reproductive health, Holly might still be alive.

      November 26, 2012 at 16:52 | Report abuse |
    • seriously?

      Hey truth, the TRUTH is holly patterson's case arose from the use of the ABORTION PILL, not the morning after pill. There is a difference between contraception (as discussed in this article) and abortion (as in the case of holly patterson.) Unfortunately, there are so many people out there like you, clouding the facts with sensational stories that aren't even relevant, that the morning after CONTRACEPTIVE pill has been demonized in the media. If the woman is already pregnant (ie, life has begun according to some) then the morning after pill simply does NOTHING.... No fetuses were harmed in the writing of this message, nor in the use of the morning after pill.

      November 26, 2012 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
    • Not Holly Patterson

      No, Holly Patterson died from sepsis as a complication from off-label use of RU-486 (aka the "French Abortion Pill"). This article is about the "morning after pill" which is basically an extra-strong dose of what's in ordinary birth control pills. Two different things.

      November 26, 2012 at 17:06 | Report abuse |
  11. Truth Still Matters

    Two Words: Holly Patterson. Google it.

    November 26, 2012 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Still Not Holly Patterson

      Um, again, this article is not about RU-486.

      November 26, 2012 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
  12. Rev Bill

    Abstinence is the only true method of birth control. The idea that teens will always fool around is crazy. Proper parental supervision is necessary to keep you daughters pure and save them from the evil temptations in the world. Know where your daughters are at all times and don't allow them to be somewhere without a chaperone. Instill in them a deep sense of morality and purity. Teens do push the limits but almost all of these teen pregnancies could be stopped by stronger parental involvement.

    November 26, 2012 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Good post, and exactly right! Parents don't want to be parents anymore, so they pretend it's not possible to be a parent and throw public education, doctors, and pills at their kids instead.

      November 26, 2012 at 17:34 | Report abuse |
    • Leslie K

      What misogynistic drivel. Cage your daughters and say nothing about the boys. I am all for kids abstaining (and if not, being safe) but sex does not "dirty" a woman. My dad had dumb ideas like you. We don't talk anymore. And I was never a promiscouis or pregnant teen – but that was because my mother taught me how to make wise choices.

      November 27, 2012 at 13:56 | Report abuse |
    • What

      Bob and Leslie...i believe you both missed the satirical nature of the post....

      November 27, 2012 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
    • Leslie K


      November 27, 2012 at 15:35 | Report abuse |
    • Gordon

      And if your daughter dishonors your family you can have her "terminated". I think that happens in some very religious areas!

      November 29, 2012 at 11:58 | Report abuse |
    • Ben Rast

      I lost my virginity when I snuck out of a church youth group to have sex with my girlfriend. I'm the son of a Methodist minister who took great pains to instil in me the importance of abstinence before marriage. Luckily, I had been educated about the importance of contraceptives at school, and we were smart enough to use it. Abstinence is the most effective method of avoiding STIs and pregnancy, but most teens will not follow through with it. Education is the most important thing we can do for our nation's youth

      December 1, 2012 at 17:24 | Report abuse |
  13. JiminNM

    It's a revolver with one live round in the cylinder, and they play the game until they win.

    November 26, 2012 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. MashaSobaka

    1. Even mature, responsible couples have a condom break every now and then. This is not about irresponsibility. Quite the opposite.
    2. Doctors who do not want to prescribe medication to their patients should get out of the medical field. I wouldn't use "I have an ethical problem with grading" to get out of my responsibilities as a teacher. Doctors should be held to the same standard. If you have qualms with the medical profession, don't get involved.
    3. If you think birth control puts a financial strain on the public (taxpayers, insurance customers, etc.), take a look at the costs associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing. If there is even a single complication (and there are thousands to choose from), the prices go up.
    4. If you don't like birth control, don't use it. Simple as that.

    November 26, 2012 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • What

      So according to your logic, if Euthanasia were legal (as many physicians think it should be), and a doctor refused to perform such a service due to his own personal ethics, he should in fact just not be a doctor?

      November 27, 2012 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
  15. CosmicC

    In general, I agree, but don't try the scared straight approach.

    November 26, 2012 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Bob

    Another poster put it best, that since the popularity of the pill, unplanned pregnancies have SOARED in this country. More birth control availability encourages kids to have sex, yet the human brain is not functioning with a reasonable appreciation of cause and effect until we are in our mid 20's, so kids are not going to be responsible either way, and they are not going to remember to take their "daily" pill either way, so the morning after pill is certainly going to get used because it's made for the forgetful in trouble, but the reality is that more birth control and sex "education" results in more sex and more unwanted pregnancies.

    November 26, 2012 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. nietodarwin

    We are NOT a "christian nation" and it's only the 'christian wrong" that wants to prevent sex ed. and contraception for teens.
    Some of these ignorant people point to "one nation under god" in the pledge, and "In god We Trust" on our money as evidence of our "xstian heritage" These terms were ADDED (to the pledge and our money) in 1954 and 1957 respectively. The decade that the religious "wrong" and Romney would have tried to return us to, if THEY HAD NOT LOST!!!!!!Religion just causes ignorance (of the devout, who only read one old book) and problems for society.

    November 26, 2012 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. fernace

    S.ex is a natural, biological function that every creature on this planet employs for procreation & enjoyment, even those, like worms, that are as.exual! Why in the world should humans be told, through religion, that it's fornication, a sin, should be saved for marriage, abstinence is Godly, virgins are pure & we must keep an eye on our girls at all times!? At best these points are idealistic & simplistic, at worst they are unrealistic & destructive! They are oldfashioned, outdated modes of keeping teens from engaging in "sin" & getting pregnant! They have very little value in todays modern society! As I said s.ex is normal & modern s.ex education includes Both boys & girls, so both can learn about protection! Teaching contraception along w/abstinence covers the whole issue, including the emotional aspect! Many people choose to marry later in life (or like me, not to marry) & to require us to be abstinent into our 30's & 40's is ridiculous! Religion is still in the stone age concerning this subject!!

    November 26, 2012 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. fernace

    Let's not forget that the Religious Right (Wrong, lol) wanted also to make abortion & contraceptives illegal across the board, during the last election! That is pure madness! I'd also like to know how many who Preach "selfcontrol" actually Practice it! Any1 got an estimate!?

    November 26, 2012 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. GO_GOP

    It is sad that we in USA, a country founded on Christian principles, are even discussing this. It is a sin as per our Lord. Period. Let this end here today and the liberals can leave my country if they don't agree.

    November 27, 2012 at 04:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gordon

      There's a big country that already shares your ideals in law - it's called Iran. Why not go there rather than trying to fight with people here that believe gov't should not be in the morality business?

      November 29, 2012 at 12:03 | Report abuse |
  21. fernace

    America was founded on the principle that religion should not be used for governance! That is why the Brits left England; to escape "pious" Kings who interpreted the bible to their own benefit & to the detriment of their subjects! We have religious freedom & separation of church & state in this country! Sounds very much like secular principles, to me! Sex is not a sin & nowhere in the bible is it refered to as such! That's all a man made interpretation to control congregants! Biblical scripture support many of the ideas we use today, such as rape & incest are wrong, but consentual sex in a loving relationship is natural & celebrated! If God created sex to be used for procreation & intimacy, why would He then condemn it as a sin!? He didn't! I recomend reading the bible start to finish, to get a better understanding of how lenient & modern God is on this issue!!

    November 27, 2012 at 05:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. William

    So not getting pregnant is safe sex sounds like eugenics to me.

    November 27, 2012 at 08:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. William

    "Emergency contraception is designed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. It works by inhibiting ovulation and disrupting the production of key cells needed in a woman’s body to conceive. It works best if taken up to 24 hours after intercourse, although it lowers pregnancy risk if taken within 120 hours (five days). It will not work if you are already pregnant."
    Does not prevent disease it just prevents baby's so it has nothing to do with safe sex.

    November 27, 2012 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. CloseToTheEdge

    Anything to stop pregnancy and abort a fetus ASAP, if necessary, after conception should be our goal. Opposition to this goal will result in more abortions later in pregnancy. And, yes, there will be abortions no matter what laws you create.

    November 27, 2012 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Billie

    I think they need a pill for the men .... something that would kill semen...before ejaculation. Why is women are the ones..that always get the responsibility. Instead...they make Viagra for them. Think about it...it is still a man's world. Come on women...lets change it. Let's make the men responsible.

    November 27, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Diane

      While I agree with you Billie, I don't think men would be any better at taking the pill than women are. Likely even less so since, as a whole, men don't take the responsibility for children. So, the pill is best left for women to take.

      November 27, 2012 at 14:46 | Report abuse |
  26. Catholic Glasses

    Morality in Dating; and Ethical Medical Doctors – Not Included!

    November 27, 2012 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. CatholicGlasses

    Their talking about salting the womb with drugs geared to kill the newly conceived person. I call it murder. An early murder, shortly after conception. The adults in the Medical Industry are amoral, politically correct, but ethically inept, morons.

    November 27, 2012 at 20:23 | Report abuse | Reply
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