Teens & Birth Control

Parent Q&A

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  • My 15 year old has anxiety and her period made things worse and more volatile. She went on the pill 3 months ago in hopes of stabilizing her mood with a plan to move to the implant. It’s been a really rough semester but now she is very depressed. She cries a lot which she rarely did before and is very reactive. Her sleep is also worse. When I try to talk about going off the pill she gets upset bc she doesn’t want her period but I am really worried to put in an implant (currently scheduled for later this week) given her depression. Her primary dr doesn’t think it causing it. Anyone else have a teen who got worse mental health issues on the pill? How did you handle it? 

    I’m a middle aged mom that tried birth control to manage depression as a teen. It created more severe depression. I’m not sure why the primary md would say it doesn’t have this side effect because it is listed as a  side effect. It’s best to get medication advice from a physician. Perhaps a psychiatrist would be a better option. 

    There is definitely a connection between birth control pills and depression. Here are just a couple of articles I pulled out of a quick Google search: https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-mood-linkhttps://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-hormonal-birth-control-trigger-d.... I had this experience myself in my 20s - I thought I was just stressed out because of school, but the depression and crying disappeared as soon as I got off the pills. There are different formulations, and she could try different brands. For me, they each had some unpleasant side effect, and I eventually gave up. But each person is different. Good luck!

    When I first went on birth control pill, I definitely suffered hormone-induced depression. When I switched from a monophasic pill (every pill has the same hormone done) to a multiphasic pill (level change over the course of your cycle) it got much, much better. Specifically, I started out on Otho-Novum 28 and ended up on Tri-Levlen (and eventually a generic equivalent).

    Really helpful to hear from other parents validating my observations of the impact of hormone BC on daughter with anxiety and depression.  I saw that it made things worse, plus she had frequent bleeding through the month. Her doc, someone I generally respect, minimized this and suggested doubling up in dose for a few days.  She opted to stop.  Will eventually need another BC solution.  Would like to know if other pill formulations or other methods (nova ring or patch) are better. 

    Both our teen daughters went on the pill this year (for acne, which worked); one had big mood swings, lots of crying, couldn't handle it, stopped and went back to normal, so it was clearly the pill. The other didn't have that trouble (just nausea for a while). So it looks like it can have an effect, but not for everyone.

    My daughter had a lot of problems with hormonal birth control and tried everything - low does oral contraceptives, injections (which caused a lot more problems), hormonal IUD, and then finally a non-hormonal IUD, which is much better. She wanted the IUD because it was much easier than having to take a pill. So far so good, so I would recommend this if the hormones are causing a lot of issues.

    I experienced depression directly related to birth control in college, but have since had 3 hormonal IUDs in my 20s and 30s (2 mirenas and a kyleena) without that issue. I think it's all about the person/drug combo. I hope the iud works better for your daughter.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Birth control discussion for teen leaving for college

Aug 2010

Years ago I worked in a women's clinic. Now I have a high school senior who will turn 18 & leave for college in 2011. She is not sexually active at this time but I want to ensure she has accurate, safe, appropriate information about staying safe around sexual activity, particularly regarding the big issues like HIV, STDs & unplanned pregnancy. I want to be sure she can get good, non-judgmental information so she has what she needs when the time arises. Doctors don't have time for this type of education. Where do young women go for this? Seeking any advice & referrals. loving mom of young adult

Planned Parenthood! staunch supporter of a vital service

I think Planned Parenthood is a great choice for this type of discussion and information. I think you'll find everything you're looking for there.

Your question's an excellent one, and congratulations to you for being such a thoughtful mother. I'm not up-to-date on local sex-ed discussion/support groups, but something I'd recommend buying your girl is the book ''The Doctor's Complete College Girls' Health Guide: From Sex to Drugs to the Freshman 15'' by Jennifer Wider, M.D. (I know that you asked specifically about STDs and birth control, but I think it's important to place them within the context of a child's overall health and his/her responsibility for learning to take care of it.) My daughter had rather a lot of sex ed in school and some pretty open talks with me, but it turned out that she also really liked having a book she could turn to; she studied it carefully throughout her senior year of high school, and started quoting Dr. Wider on all sorts of topics.

My daughter also spent hours on the teen section of Planned Parenthood's Web site: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/teen-talk/index.htm (And I think PP branches sometimes also offer discussion groups for older teenagers.)

Lastly, you might want to tool around on Good Vibrations' parents' page: www.goodvibes.com/content.jhtml?id=Resources-For-Parents. I mention this because it's so easy for us to focus on nothing but birth control and STDs. Staying nonpregnant and disease-free is an important message, but it's also kind of one-sided, so I tried to remember to stay sex-positive. Melanie

I'm guessing Planned Parenthood could provide the type of education you are looking for. But I think it is very important for parents to talk to their kids about the pros and cons of sex and tell them their expectations. You can't control your teenagers, but a frank discussion can help confused teens make better decisions. Sanon

Planned Parenthood in my experience will give a young woman all the time she needs to discuss the different topics you listed. They will go over safe sex, all the different birth control methods and also talk about healthy relationships. I am not sure where you live but there is a new center in the El Cerrito shopping plaza that has a very compassionate team and great lead clinician. Anonymous

Hi, Try putting a financial swing on it, ''When you're ready please see the doctor on campus, since we are paying for insurance anyway''.

Don't know where your daughter is going but most campuses have remarkably good health centers brimming with resources. Call ahead, get the number and be sure she has it. My daughter went to Planned Parenhood and was prescribed a pill that brought on horrific migraines. Had she come to me, perhaps that could have been avoided. Bring her to your (her) doctor before she leaves and ask her to spend a few minutes with her alone. (She needs that HPV anyway, if you haven't finished that) Explain to your daughter that everybody becomes intimate at some point and she should use resources that use her medical insurance rather than a free clinic cause her medical history is a part of the puzzle of what is best for her (and PP should be reserved for those poor girls who can't talk to mommy) GOOD NEWS... (and this was news to me) We don't do examinations anymore until age 21. This means no PAP, no speculum, none of the stuff we dreaded. ITs all urinalysis now. Isn't that wild? RR

I recommend The Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides (book) Our Bodies, Ourselves (book). The teen version is Changing Bodies, Changing Lives, but that may be too young for her www.scarleteen.com Planned Parenthood best wishes

Daughter says she wants to try the Pill

March 2005

I've read the listings on the wisdom of allowing/encouraging/giving in to our teenage daughters taking birth controls...I'm now in the same space, but have not seen any listings that tell about the girls' experiences once they went on the pill. Does anyone have any advice to share - how was the physical response, was it ortho-cyclen or another type, did they discontinue, did it result in sexual activity when none had been expected, were there complications? Any stories would be greatly appreciated. My daughter says she wants to try them out now to see how she does with them, and has no specific plans. I sort of support her but feel she is jumping the gun a bit. I don't know how my ex- would react - they're not in contact. anon

Someone posted recently, asking for advice and experiences regarding teen girls and the pill. My daughter has explored birth control options both with her physician and with a Planned Parenthood counselor, and in both cases, they really pushed the pill. To my chagrin, neither one said a thing to her about STD protection. Isn't anyone talking to these girls about how you still need a condom if you're on the pill, or you need to get yourself and your partner tested? Or am I just being hopelessly paranoid about this? Wondering

It would be seriously remiss if your daughter were not getting some counseling re: STD's etc., but if you think she is not, why don't you? There's a lot of information available in the library, on-line, through Planned Parenthood, and you are the first line of education for your daughter, in all areas of her life. I think it's your job educate her first. Anon

Daughter doesn't want the Pill - should I insist?

My 16 year old daughter and her boyfriend are starting to experiment with petting but swear that they have no intention of going beyond a certain limit they have set. (far beyond where I ever went in high school). I'm fairly uncomfortable with all this but trying to drag myself into the 21st century. Everyone I've talked to insists that I should take her in to get birth control right now but she doesn't want to and I feel like there's a certain way in which that communicates that I support or condone going all the way as we used to say. No, I am not from the Christain right-wing, but like another parent here I would wish for both of them that they could wait until they are older and have a little bit more experience with dating before getting involved in the emotional and spiritual depth that sex brings to a relationship. At the same time, I don't want to be an idealistic fool and end up being sorry because I didn't insist. Any advice or experience would be appreciated.

How about giving your teen daughter the business card of a trusted gynacologist just in case she has any questions, and wants reliable information, at any time. Perhaps your own gynacologist has a young doctor in his/her practice, or can recommend a young, female, doctor with a young practice. This would give your daughter a sense of independence and confidentiality around this very private issue, and someone closer to her own age to consult. You could arrange to leave payment on account, use a charge card, or give your daughter the cash in advance for an appointment, to allow confidentiality. Many gynacologists are sympathetic to teens and comfortable with the idea of confidentiality.

Should I insist on birth control!!! - dear parent I fully understand what you are going through - all the advice I can offer is that I didn't put my daughter on birth control - and she was what I thought heavy petting and DID get pregnant at age 15. After much debate we decided upon an abortion and it was the most horrible experience ever in my life - the only good thing is that my daughter and I really bonded - she now tells me everything about her life - and comes to me for help/support more than ever. All that aside we are many years down the road - looking back with hindsight I should have taken her and insisted on birth control.

Even though your daughter says she is heavy petting - you know how it is one thing leads to another - if she is going to have sex - I really don't think it will make any difference what you as parents think - so I wouldn't worry about the issue of condoning sex if you put her on the pill - you as parents are just being safe thats all. I would not want anyone to go through what my daughter and I had to go through that day. Good luck

We have worked with Dr. Anne Tipton at Kaiser-Oakland for four years and like her a lot. Our daughter is now fifteen. (see recommendations for Ann Tipton for the rest of this review.)

Daughter wants the Pill - does it mean approval of sex?

Has anyone been faced with the question of providing their daughter with birth control pills? My daughter (age 15) claims that she is not sexually active, but her behavior raises questions in that area. I have always thought that providing birth control pills to a teen amounts to parental approval of teenage sex. I *do not* want to give that message. I can't help but think that the provision of birth control pills would render condoms entirely unnecessary from the teens' perspective, thus opening the door for broader exposure to STD's. Please respond asap. We'll be seeing the doctor this Friday and she's in favor of providing the pills.

My teenage daughter got so out of control with drugs and such, including promiscuous behaviour that I was really afraid. But guess what? She always used condoms. The commercials about This is your brain, This is your brain on drugs are laughable - she didn't care enough about herself to care what it did to her brain - she wanted to hurt herself. But something - somehow got through to her about pregnancy and she took care of herself that way. She was protecting herself from pregnancy - not from disease.

My daughter is 14, adopted and has a real fear of pregnancy because she knows she would never be capable of having an abortion. She know her biological mother gave birth to her at age 16. She wanted to try taking birth control pills to see if she could remember to take them! I agreed - giving her two strong messages. #1 I wanted her to wait to be sexually active #2 condom was a MUST. her doctor told her the same thing. She is not sexually active ( I am quite sure). She took the pills for a couple of months and then forgot about the whole thing. I think it is good to make protection available . They also get practice at seeing themselves responsible for their sexuality - something that I think will help them become less vulnerable to sexual manipulation. Far worse for the daughter than getting sexually active too early (as undesirable as that is) would be an unwanted pregnancy or disease. learning the necessity of all forms of protection is important. Encouraging ( or being supportive in regard to) one form of protection will probably make her more inclined to eventually use a condom when she does become sexually active -- instead of not feeling information and protection were available and you supported her use of them. Also, if you provide her with the pills, she may feel more comfortable about coming to you with other questions or for advice. Anyway, this is my experience, thanks in part to the advice I received from a very good friend who had been through this kind of thing. One cannot control sexual activity. One can make protection available and emphasize its importance ( i.e. condoms) -- and give the message of the dangers or disadvantages of getting sexually active too early -- if the lines of communication are clear and there is confidence. From what I gather pressures are pretty enormous on girls this age. They need all the support they can get/ showing the support may make her take you other messages more to heart.

Do get your daughter the pills. You are not sending the wrong message. Teens do not have sex because they have pills. If she has been educated in the Berkeley public middle schools and high school, I am sure she knows the danger of STDs and the need for condoms. Do 2 things before Friday: talk to the people at the Health Center on campus via phone (It will educate you and ease your mind); and also talk to the doctor about telling your daughter of the need to protect against more than pregnancy. Teen do know that condoms ARE NECESSARY. But keep the communication open. Have the doctor do the same.

By all means have your daghter see a doctor this friday. He or she will most surely advocate condoms as well as pills. I am an ob-gyn and work with a lot of teens and recommend both. The teen clinic at Berkeley High and Childrens Hospital advocates both forms of contraception. The BCPs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. The problem with BCPs is that teens forget to take them. Dont forget about emergency contraception (or the morning after pill) which is now easy to come by and very effective.

In response to the query about Birth Control Pills: I wouldn't give them to my daughter if she didn't want them. It sends the message that you don't trust your daughter and that could make her feel untrustworthy and possibly become so. You may be correct about the lack of necessity to use condoms too. I would also be concerned about playing with a young girl's hormones unnecessarily. Is it possible for her to talk to the doctor about it privately? I bet there will be lots of responses to this one!

As a family practice/women's health care provider and mother of a fourteen year old daughter, I frequently face the thorny issues of teen sexuality as it relates to cultural, religious, and family values, parent-teen communication, and parental control and authority. Congratulations to your daughter for thinking responsibly about contraception and to you and her for your efforts to talk openly about a difficult subject.

I think i's important to point out that in California teens age 12 and over have the legal right to complete confidentiality in medical services related to family planning, gynecological exams, and diagnosis and treatment of STDs. While this is worrisome or even offensive to some parents, I think the primary reason is to help assure that teens will seek education and care for these sensitive services, rather than avoid them for fear of parental repercussions.

We all want our kids to be safe and to make healthy choices. I strongly urge you to encourage your daughter to establish an independent relationship with a health care provider she can trust. In addition to your family clinician there are many excellent free and confidential teen services in this area. Of course, I also support your continued open communication. Studies show that teens who are well educated about sexuality tend to delay sexual activity and to use effective STD and contraceptive protection when they do choose to become active. What I've seen of the information coming out of Berkeley public schools seems to give a pretty clear message to kids that abstinence is the only safe method but that condoms are essential for STD protection.

By the way, Planned Parenthood is an excellent resource not only for teen services, but also for advice to parents about how to talk with their teens. You should continue to communicate your value that teenage sex is not an appropriate choice, but I hope that you will also have the assurance that your daughter is comfortable seeking whatever care she may need.
Good luck,

I've always appreciated the way my mother handled this. Way back in the 60's, when the Pill was still relatively new and we had not yet become the promiscuous (post-Pill and pre-AIDS) generation, she took me to her gynecologist when I turned 16, had him give me a regular pelvic as he would for an adult, and prescribed birth control pills. Not only was I not sexually active, I didn't even have a boyfriend! Her message was simple, respectful, and loving: in body, if not entirely in mind and heart, you are now a woman. That is a great joy and a great privilege, but it brings with it the responsibility to take care of your body and manage your reproductive activity wisely. She told me she knew that I did not need the pills now. She affirmed (not sure I, or any teen, believed/s this, but...) that I could always talk to her about these issues, but that she knew that when the time came that might be difficult and she never wanted me to feel torn between the need to use the pills and my fear of telling her. Funny thing is, once she said this I never again felt afraid to talk to her. Far from sending a message of lack of trust, I felt that her approach communicated immense trust in me: she was giving me the tools to engage in sexual activity in a responsbile way, when I was ready, and she trusted me to make the right decision.

My mother suggested that I go on the pill when I was 16. I was not even quite ready to sleep with my second boyfriend, but I thought it was a good idea to do this ahead of time and my mom assured me that it would eliminate menstrual cramps. I did not feel that my mom promoted sex, (althought I tried it two months after taking the pill and academically still remained an A student throughout life), but she sure had enough respect for me that she realized I eventually would want to have sex spontaneously and she wanted to make sure that I was fine. I had my first vacation romance at 14, my first boyfriend at 15 which lasted for over 1 year. Therefore I don't understand your notion of parental approval of teenage sex. What we want to teach our children is how to form meaningful friendships. If we succeed at that (it would be helpful if the parents also have meaningful reliable friendships). Sex comes naturally into the picture when the bodies crave it and adds a nice bonus to a trusting relationship. A teenager who experiences that, might not be interested in one-night stands, if that is what you fear. I certainly wasn't, as I learned quickly how much better sex gets, the more you know the partner.

I grew up in Germany. Why is sex such a taboo in this country? It really bugs me! It's all out there in the advertisement, but beware someone wants to practice it! History shows that kids were married off to each other at the age of 12 or 13 when the total life expectancy was around 35 years. Obviously, the bodies get ready by themselves and to teach emotional maturity is up to us. I can tell you that I'd rather give my daughter the privacy and comfort of her room than having to be cramped in the backseat of someone's car (my mom's philosophy). When my cousin was 16, he was allowed to bring his girlfriend home for overnighters. The parents of both kids got to know each other and knew their kids were safe at home having sex and the girl basically had a second family. The only drawback was, when she and my cousin split up a couple of years later, my aunt & uncle were kind of heartbroken too for a while. I'm just telling this story to encourage people to look beyond their traditional or religious restrictions. The main thing is that you are there for your child and that your child does not have to hide anything from you, because they know you can be entrusted with any kind of information. The more taboos you have, the less the child can tell you - to avoid setting you off. In other words, it doesn't matter if you approve teenage sex or not, if they feel like it, they'll have it anyway. We are free human beings and teenagers know that, no matter what they're told at church. The best you can do as a parent is to prepare them (which also includes how to avoid and act in rape situations) and help them integrate the newfound exciting development into their lives without losing track of other important things.

Bravo to the woman from Germany and her sensible views on teen sexuality. I was beginning to think I was the only parent who didn't felt the need to not condone teenagers having sex. Of course the AIDS epidemic makes it much scarier, but the fact remains that adolescent hormones are raging as they always have. Doesn't anyone else remember what that feels like? I certainly do. The kids are in a terribly difficult situation. On the one hand, as this parent said, the media and the whole culture are bombarding the kids with sexual content - not that they need that to be aware of what their bodies are already telling them, but it certainly is an added factor - and on the other hand, they have grown up being told repeatedly how dangerous sex is. Whether or not we condone teen sexuality doesn't matter; it is a given. Our job as parents is to give them a healthy, positive view of their sexuality; enough respect for themselves not to be pressured into things they aren't ready for; and the knowledge and sense to practice safe sex, and to wait until they're mature enough to do so. The more realistic and open we are, the more likely we are to have an influence on their behavior. I always assumed that at some point my kids would begin having sex and just hoped that they would wait until they were old enough to be responsible, which they seem to have done. It is a very important, normal part of life. From talking to my kids and friends of mine who have teenagers they have talked to about it, it seems that many kids these days have gotten the message about using condoms. This is very encouraging. It seems to me that we can help our kids protect themselves from the very real dangers of AIDS and other STDs and the difficulties of too-early childbearing without reverting to puritanism.

I agree - teens can and do have strong and legitimate feelings of love and sexuality. I remember what it felt like! My intense love and desire for my boyfriend from when I was 15 until I was 18 is still vivid. I was young, and silly in a lot of ways. And I'm glad I didn't marry him! I'm glad we were both careful not to get pregnant! But those feelings were so strong, stronger than anything since, and are still a happy memory after 3+ decades. I was on the pill at 17, to regulate my periods supposedly, and before that we used condoms. My parents did not know about my active sex life, and I'd have died before I would ever have had the sort of matter-of-fact discussions about sex and romance I've had with my own kids. The interesting thing for me now as a parent of teens is that my kids do not seem to be anywhere near as romantically and sexually driven as I was when I was their age. Maybe because they are boys? I don't know. In fact I find I have to hold back on my own enthusiasm in order not to embarass them. So it might be presumptuous of me to advise parents of sexually active teens. But I cannot understand the benefit of trying to enforce chastity on them, or pretending that their feelings are not legitimate. I think you'd want to make sure they were protected from any harm, but not to deny them their early sexual experiences. They might be fond memories for later. --Anonymous