When discussing cringeworthy or unpleasant moments of parenting, the “Birds and the Bees” conversation usually comes up high on your average adult’s list. Most parents can recall uncomfortably squirming and fidgeting through The Talk with their own parents. Few are in a hurry to repeat the experience.
Unfortunately, teaching children how to grow up into self-sufficient adults capable of caring for their own well-being is the point of parenting. And sexual health is very, very important to that overall wellbeing.
We’re lucky enough to live in an era where a range of contraceptive methods are available to both men and women. None is perfect and abstinence is and always will be the only 100 percent foolproof method. However, when used correctly, many contraceptives are safe, have minimal side-effects, and are highly effective. Here are some of the options:
Pros: There are many different kinds of birth control pills, all with varying hormone dosages and side effects. When taken at the same time every day, The Pill is a fairly effective, widely available method.
Cons: Some women experience side effects ranging from loss of sexual desire to weight gain to severe mood swings on The Pill. Finding the right dosage may take several months of trial and error. Also, if your teen is particularly absent-minded, this may not be the right method for her.
Pros: These small wire devices inserted into the uterus are available either with low dosages of hormones or with copper 375 (Intrauterine Device) , a natural spermicide. Incredibly effective, long-lasting (five to 10 years, depending on the model) and instantly reversible, this method is slowly gaining popularity.
Cons: Inserting the device is somewhat expensive (although much more reasonably priced in Bangkok compared with many Western countries) and causes some discomfort. Some women may have longer periods or stronger cramps. Some women may find that, depending on the branding, they will experience some of the same side effects as The Pill. Women must schedule annual gynecological checkups to make sure that the device is still in place and working properly.
Pros: A contraceptive implant is essentially the same as The Pill, but does not require your teen to remember to take a tablet each day. It’s a bit more expensive, but longer lasting and not dependant on memory for effectiveness.
Cons: Like The Pill, an implant releases low doses of hormones, which may have side effects such as vaginal spotting, heavier or longer lasting periods and nausea.
Pros: Cheap, widely available, usable by men and somewhat effective against sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), condoms are the default method for many teenagers.
Cons: Many teens do not know how to use a condom properly, increasing the risk of slippage or breakage. Embarrassing as it may be, it’s worth talking to either your boy or girl about how to correctly apply a condom. If that’s too much to stomach, ask them to watch a tutorial online or attend a safe sex workshop.
Pros: This hormone releasing patch is applied once a week for three weeks, allowing for menstruation to occur. It is convenient, doesn’t require daily attention and provides a steady dose of hormones.
Cons: Like The Pill, the patch releases low doses of hormones, which may have side effect such as vaginal spotting, heavier or longer lasting periods and nausea.
Pros This hormonal vaginal ring inserted into the vagina once a month to prevent pregnancy. It is convenient, effective and simple.
Cons Like The Pill, the patch releases low doses of hormones, which may have side effect such as vaginal spotting, heavier or longer lasting periods and nausea. Also, when this method is stopped it may take up to two months for regular menstruation to begin again.
Pros The injection called Depot Medroxyprogestrone Acetate (DMPA) lasts at one dose, every three months. It is very effective, non intrusive and very convenient.
Cons Disrupted periods, weight gain, and headaches or nausea aren’t uncommon side effects.
Pros: One of the oldest methods of contraception is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, thanks to a variety of apps that make it easier to keep track of ovulation. It requires no synthetic hormones, has no side effects, and does not inhibit a women from becoming pregnant later on if she chooses to do so.
Cons: If it sounds too good to be true, it often is. Although easy, this default method is far from fail-safe. Sperm can survive for days in the female body and many women have irregular menstrual cycles, making it difficult to accurately know when ovulating. Emphasize that this method carries a very serious risk, especially when used for prolonged periods without other forms of contraceptives.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, 2003. Faculty of Medicine Chulalongkorn University