If you’re a sexually active teenager, practicing safe sex is important for your health. Beyond that, preventing pregnancy is important for your future. Here are some tips on how to talk to you parent or guardian about going on birth control, as well as some other resources that might help guide your birth control decisions.

What Are My Options for Birth Control?

A variety of birth control methods are available, including condoms, pills, and implants. What you choose is highly personal and may change over time. Doing your research before talking with your parent will show them you’re serious about your sex life and protecting yourself against pregnancy.

Here’s the lowdown on some of the most popular birth control options that require a prescription. It’s important to note that these methods protect your body against pregnancy, but they don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Birth Control Pills

The pill is one of the most popular options on this list. The two main types are combination pills that contain estrogen and progestin hormones and progestin-only pills, which are rarely prescribed to teens. The failure rate for this type of birth control is around 9 percent, but that goes up if you miss or skip doses. You may have lighter periods with less cramping while you’re on the pill. If you have acne, it may improve.

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

Less than one in 100 women will get pregnant while using an intrauterine device (IUD), making its failure rate one of the best on this list. Your doctor will insert a small T-shaped device into your uterus to block sperm from entering the fallopian tubes. There are both hormonal and nonhormonal choices. Plus, you don’t need to remember to take pills. IUDs need to be replaced every three to 10 years.

Contraceptive Implants

If you get an implant, your doctor will place a thin plastic that contains a hormone under your skin on your upper arm. If you’re forgetful, this option may be a good choice for you. It doesn’t need to be replaced for three years and its failure rate, like IUDs, is less than 1 percent.

Progestin Injections

You may have heard of the Depo-Provera shot. It’s a progestin injection that has up to a 6 percent failure rate. The injection is made once every three months and keeps your body from ovulating. The injection may protect against endometrial cancer and iron-deficiency anemia. You may stop having periods after a few doses.

Vaginal Rings and Contraceptive Patches

Both the ring and patch offer the same level of protection against pregnancy as birth control pills. The ring needs to be replaced only once per month, which can help prevent missed or skipped doses. The patch needs to be replaced once per week for three weeks before skipping a week and repeating the process. As with the pill, you may experience lighter periods with less cramping and improved skin.

Condoms

You should use condoms with any hormonal birth control option to protect yourself against STDs. When they’re used alone, they have a failure rate of around 18 percent for male condoms or 21 percent for female condoms. These devices are available without a prescription at your drug or grocery store, are relatively inexpensive, and most are easy to use.

Does Birth Control Have Any Side Effects?

As with any medication, there are some side effects you may experience while on birth control. Here’s a rundown of the most common side effects associated with each form listed above.

Birth Control Pills

You may experience headaches, nausea, or breast tenderness while on the pill. Though more serious side effects are rare, you may develop the following:

  • blood clots
  • a stroke
  • high blood pressure
  • headaches, such as migraines

Intrauterine Devices

Some women report having pain or cramping shortly after getting an IUD placed. Depending on the type of IUD, you may also experience the following:

  • irregular bleeding
  • spotting
  • heavy bleeding
  • other menstrual abnormalities

These issues usually resolve with time.

Implants

The implant may cause irregular menstrual bleeding. Less common side effects include weight gain, headaches, or increased acne.

Injections

Getting the injection may cause you to gain weight or have irregular bleeding or spotting between menstrual periods. Once you stop the shot, it may take some time for your fertility to return. This can take up to two years, but it usually returns within a year. In some cases, the shot may interfere with bone density and increase your risk of blood clots.

Rings and Patches

The ring and patch have similar side effects, including an increased risk of blood clots. The ring may also cause:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • increased vaginal discharge
  • breast tenderness

Birth Control and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Most birth control methods don’t protect you against STDs. You should keep a stock of condoms to use in addition to your regular hormonal birth control. You should also keep up with regular exams, especially if you notice any unusual symptoms.

Read more: STD prevention »

How to Approach the Subject with Your Parent

Keeping the line of communication open with your parent is key. If you don’t know exactly how to begin the conversation, here are some starting points:

  • You can use a television show or movie that’s covering this topic to start the conversation generally and work toward more specifics.
  • You don’t have to speak face-to-face. Try using email, text messages, or any other form of communication that makes you feel comfortable and helps get your thoughts across.
  • You can plan ahead. Tell them that you’d like to speak privately later in the day. They’ll likely get the idea and have some time to prepare mentally.
  • Be honest.
  • You may even want to brainstorm some questions ahead of time. Write down everything you’re wondering. This might include information about STDs, how to know when you’re in love, and to how to know when to have sex.

If your parent isn’t receptive, there are other ways to get the information you need. You can ask your parent to make an appointment with your doctor or even make the appointment on your own to get the information you’re seeking.

Read more: Which birth control is right for you? »

Once you’re sexually active, it’s important to let your doctor know so you can be routinely screened for STDs and other issues.

More Tips

Despite the awkwardness, having a conversation about your sexual health with your parent is definitely worth it. Are you still having trouble deciding how to get the line of communication open? Start the conversation by asking your parent about their experiences at your age. Even if they don’t seem willing to share at first, this is a great way to get the ball rolling. You can also try using humor to break the ice.

Although it’s only natural to hope for understanding and guidance, you should also prepare yourself for a less-than-favorable reaction. The topic may be met with some resistance or other negative emotions. Your parent is likely grappling with the idea that you’re no longer a child. If you need to, give your parent a little space and try to revisit the conversation again.

What to Do If You Can’t Talk to Your Parent About Birth Control

You may also consider reaching out to another trusted adult, such as an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or even an older sibling. If these talking points aren’t working out for you, though, there are other resources that can give you the help you need.

Planned Parenthood has over 700 clinics across the United States. Their mission is to provide you with support and information so you can make “informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning.” These clinics typically don’t require you to obtain parental permission to receive birth control. Services are affordable, and they’re high quality.

If there isn’t a clinic nearby, your doctor is also an excellent resource for information about your sexual health. Make an appointment for a checkup to discuss your questions about birth control options. You can go to this appointment alone. Be sure to ask about confidentiality to ease your mind.

If you’re an older teen and in college, you can also check into the services offered at your campus health or counseling center.

The Takeaway

Starting birth control is an excellent way to protect yourself against pregnancy if you’re sexually active. Most methods are highly effective when they’re used properly. In fact, several boast over 99 percent protection against pregnancy. With so many options, there are a variety methods that can work for you.

In the end, it’s a good idea to approach the topic of sex and birth control with your parent if you’re sexually active. Your parent can help you figure out which type of birth control is right for you, all while giving you emotional support during this big transition in your life. Keeping the line of communication open is an important step to take.