Promoting Contraceptive Use Among Teens: Moving the Conversation Forward

Currently, much of the imagery and text used in contraception campaigns features women who appear to be college-aged or older, and relates to issues that are relevant to women in these age groups.

Consider examples from a variety of different birth control options, including the birth control pill (in these ads from and the Ad Council) :

Business Hour Bust 7X10
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and implants (in a commercial from Nexplanon):

Plan B One-Step:

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And even condoms:

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If one were to scan these popular advertisements, it would appear that contraception is a concern only of adult women, and is sold only to adult women. However, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the average age a young woman in the United States has sex for the first time is 17.2. Teens in high school and younger are engaging in sexual activity, and ultimately may face negative consequences if not practicing safe sex.

For many obvious reasons (controversy, health concerns, awkwardness) teens are not a popular group to market contraceptives too. And certainly, educating teens on issues like readiness and consent are extremely important, and should be a part of the conversation parents, schools and health professionals have with teens. However, armed with the knowledge that some teems will engage in sexual activity, the conversation must also including information about contraception.

According to an article published in Teen Vogue, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is working on just that. For the last few years they have promoted the #ThxBirthControl hashtag across social media, both to educate young women about contraception, and to empower them to feel comfortable talking about birth control use. In addition, they maintain, a site designed to provide content from teens, to teens regarding sex. They even work with television programs like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom to open up the conversation about sex and teen pregnancy among young people. Their goal is to make sex a topic for discussion so young people can make informed and safe decisions.

Hopefully, with continued campaigns like these, and publicity across popular television shows and magazines, the conversation about teen access to birth control will continue to be normalized.

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