The American Academy of Pediatrics is now asking pediatricians to provide access to emergency contraceptives to prevent teen pregnancy in the U.S.
The organization's committee on adolescence released a new policy statement on emergency contraception, making the recommendations because the U.S. continues to experience birth rates among teens that are much higher than other high-income nations despite declining numbers.
The AAP said pediatricians need to be aware that sexual behavior is prevalent among teens and that sexually active teens may be the victims of sexual assault. Emergency contraceptives (EC) serve as a backup to reduce the risk of pregnancy when standard contraceptives, such as birth control pills and condoms, are not used, are misused or fail.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 5,835 teenagers gave birth in Tennessee in 2016.
Because data showed U.S. teens most commonly use either condoms or withdrawal as methods to prevent pregnancy, the AAP is recommending pediatricians to provide access to EC.
The group said EC such as the copper intrauterine device, which they said can prevent pregnancy if administered to girls within five days of unprotected sex, have shown to be the most effective method and provide ongoing contraception. However, they said these devices are not available at most pediatric offices -- so they recommend pediatricians should begin providing them to adolescents and young adults.
The group also looked at oral emergency contraceptive pills, such as morning-after pills like levonorgestrel, recommending pediatricians also provide those.
Above all else, the group said pediatricians should include information about EC to teens as part of counseling about pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection prevention in all settings. The AAP said its policy for pediatricians who may morally object to EC use still have the duty to inform their patients on treatment options and refer them to other physicians who can help.
"Pediatricians can also be an important source of information for parents to help them communicate with their adolescents and to educate them about the importance of contraception and other prevention strategies to reduce risks associated with sexual activity if their adolescents make the decision to have sex," the AAP said.