What do you tell teenage patients about contraception?

December 1, 2005

You have an interest in protecting adolescent patients from the risks of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease. But what preventive measures should you recommend?

Condoms? The Food and Drug Administration isn't being encouraging. They want condoms to carry a new warning label-that condoms may "greatly reduce" the risks of pregnancy and HIV infection but "do not eliminate" those risks. The label would point out that condoms provide "less protection" against herpes virus and human papillomavirus than against other STDs.

The transdermal patch? The FDA has just issued a warning that Ortho's Ortho Evra contraceptive patch (norelgestromin/ethinyl estradiol transdermal system) exposes users to 60% more estrogen than standard birth control pills, greatly increasing the risk of side effects.

Still, effective contraceptives are available, condoms do prevent infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted pathogens, and prevention of pregnancy is an important aspect of adolescent health care. Pass it on.

Ms. Asch-Goodkin is a contributing editor for Contemporary Pediatrics. She has nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with, or financial interests in, any organization that may have an interest in any part of this article.