Doctors recommend emergency contraception for teens before emergency happens

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement recommending pediatricians prescribe emergency contraception to teenagers in advance in an effort curb unintended pregnancies.

"Adolescents are more likely to use emergency contraception if it has been prescribed in advance of need," according to the AAP.

The Academy's policy recommendation, which will be published in the December 2012 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, says the goal of the recommendation is to "(1) educate pediatricians and other physicians on available emergency contraceptive methods; (2) provide current data on safety, efficacy, and use of emergency contraception in teenagers; and (3) encourage routine counseling and advance emergency-contraception prescription as 1 part of a public health strategy to reduce teen pregnancy."

As a pharmacist and a father, Brian Oholendt said he understands both sides of the emergency contraception debate.

"We just had twins and we had an eight-year-old and a six-year-old. That's hard," he said. "You do want to advocate abstinence, but you also have to be a realist for all those kids that aren't going to do that, which are quite a bit I would think."

As part owner of Jonesboro independent pharmacy, Gibson's Pharmacy, Oholendt can choose whether to fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives.

Gibson's Pharmacy fills prescriptions for birth control pills and patches.  The pharmacy does not fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives. Oholendt said the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics probably will not change Gibson's policy, but he will refer patients to other pharmacies that can fill the emergency contraception prescriptions. "I always like to know someone who does. So then you know, 'I don't have it here. You may want to try this other place.'"

Dr. Shane Speights, the Adult and Pediatric Hospitalist Program Director at St. Bernards said he believes the intent of the policy update is to open the lines of communication between healthcare providers and teens.

However, he is worried that having a prescription readily available will diminish the progress medical professionals have made in reducing unintended pregnancies among teens.

"The teen pregnancy rates have been going down the last 20 years. It's been on the decline so we're doing a good job somewhere. Let's continue with the education aspect as opposed to 'Here's a prescription. Use it if you need it.'"

Dr. Speights thinks another purpose of the statement is to promote and encourage access to medical experts who can separate fact from fiction. A perfect example, he said, is doctors can clear up confusion about the purpose of morning after pill.

"There's an abortion pill out there. That's not this. That's not (the emergency contraceptive) Plan B. It would be like, a woman, if she missed her birth control pill and took a couple the next day or so."

Dr. Speights said the stance the American Academy has taken creates the opportunity for conversations that need to happen between teens and parents about risky behavior.

"This is also a great opportunity for parents to sit down and have that uncomfortable conversation that every parent doesn't look forward to."

Click here to read an excerpt from the AAP statement.

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