If you are a teenager, you may want to wait to start having sex for any number of reasons, or you may just want to hold off on the kinds of sex that present a risk of pregnancy. If you have already made the decision to have vaginal intercourse and don’t want to get pregnant, you need to use birth control.
Talking with your friends and supportive adults, and visiting teen-friendly sexuality websites such as Scarleteen: Sex Ed for the Real World can help you to make healthy choices about if, when, and with whom to have sex, as well as how to protect yourself if you decide to be sexually active.
Have a birth control method picked out and begin using it before the first time you have sexual intercourse. If there is a reproductive health clinic nearby, you can go there and speak with a medical provider. Most family planning clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, provide free or reduced-cost services and supplies. They are also completely confidential. That means no one else will know you have an appointment or are using birth control. You do not need permission from your parents or a guardian to make an appointment or get birth control. If you do not know where there is a clinic near you, you can search for one by zip code or state at Planned Parenthood’s website or call Planned Parenthood at 1-800-230-PLAN.
No matter what age you are, you can also buy safe and effective methods, such as condoms and spermicides, in most drugstores. Condoms are sometimes given out free in teen centers, clinics, or HIV prevention programs. Whatever method of birth control you choose, use condoms to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This is especially important because men and women under age twenty-four have the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea. For more information, see Safer Sex & Sexually Transmitted Infections.
If you have not been using birth control and have had unprotected intercourse within the past five days, you can use emergency contraception (EC) to prevent pregnancy. Some types of emergency contraception are available at pharmacies, without prescription and to people of any age. For more information, see Facts About Emergency Contraception.