More than one in five teen girls who are sexually active say they have used the morning-after emergency contraceptive pill, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a dramatic rise from 2002, when only about one in twelve teen girls who were sexually active used the morning-after pill.
This large increase in the number of girls using emergency contraception is primarily due to changes in their prescription status. When emergency contraception or morning-after pills were first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a woman needed a prescription to buy them. This was changed in 2006 so that anyone over age 18 could obtain them without a prescription. Two years ago, the age restriction was completely eliminated and anyone can buy the pills without a prescription.
Emergency contraception must be taken within 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex or the failure of a condom. Brands of morning-after pills include Plan B and Next Choice. They cost between $35 and $50. Morning-after pills are similar to regular birth control pills, but contain a higher dose of the hormone progestin. If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, they can reduce the chances of pregnancy by nearly 90%. There is also a product called Ella (ulipristol acetate) that is effective for up to 5 days after unprotected sex or the failure of a condom, but it requires a prescription.
The CDC report found no large changes in the use of other types of birth control by sexually active teen girls. Almost all the girls who participated in the survey said they used condoms at some point and more than half said they used oral contraceptive pills.
The report notes that there has been a drop in teen sexual activity, which along with better forms of contraception, has led to a drop in teen birth rates since 1991. About 45% of both teen boys and girls say they have had sex, compared to 60% of boys and 51% of girls in 1988, according to the report.
The CDC report, called the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth, can be read online at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db209.htm.