Safe Medicine? More, Younger Girls Starting on Birth Control

Posted on 23 July 2011



(NEW YORK) — The number of teenage girls on the birth control pill has jumped 50 percent in the past decade in the U.S. alone, according to a study released this March by Thomson Reuters.

Today, one in five American girls between the ages of 13 and 18 — two-and-a-half million teens in all — are on the birth control, the study found, and doctors say the age at which teens start on the pill is getting younger and younger.

“We have put people on the pill who are as young as 12,” Dr. Mary Rosser, a gynecologist in Larchmont, New York who treats adolescents, told ABC’s Good Morning America.

Rosser attributes the growth of birth control use among teens to the increasingly young age at which girls begin to menstruate, some as young as age 10, and the rising number of sexually active teens.

“Almost half of teenagers ages 15 to 19 report they have had sexual intercourse at least once,” Rosser said.

Rosser says most parents come to doctors, seeking birth control prescriptions for their daughters, in order to treat their teens’ acne, regulate menstrual periods, and to prevent teen pregnancy.

“I think it’s okay to have their teenager on the pill if they are ready to go on it and they ask for it,” Rosser said of the approach she takes with her own patients. “I think it’s safer than having a teen pregnancy.”

While Rosser takes a proactive approach towards birth control for teens, the rising popularity of the drug does not come without controversy.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology asserts the pill is safe, but acknowledges it is associated with a heightened risk for blood clots.

Several studies in recent years have also suggested a possible link between the pill and breast cancer, with organizations like the World Health Organization even calling the pill a carcinogenic.

“I’ve found that some women who’ve been on birth control pills for a while have trouble conceiving,” Dr. Erika Schultz, a New York City-based internist who specializes in women and hormone issues, told Good Morning America.

Schultz said she believes the pill can do more harm than good, and worries that doctors are overprescribing the pill to a generation of teens seduced by glossy ads put forth by an oral contraceptive industry that generates sales of $4 billion per year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio