“We must do more to keep teens healthy.

And that begins with better instruction for those who care for adolescents and improving teens' access to comprehensive reproductive health care.”

Michelle Staples-Horne, MD, MPH

Teen Reproductive Health

As physicians, we believe that all people--regardless of their age--should have the knowledge, equal access to quality services, and freedom to make their own reproductive health care decisions.

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LARC Awareness Week: For Teens, a Smart Birth Control Option

Kathleen Morrell MDLARC Awareness Week is November 16–22, 2014. Our Reproductive Health Advocacy Fellow Dr. Kathleen Morrell discusses why long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) are a great option for teens.

Over the summer, two sisters who were heading off to college came to my clinic. These two bright, talented, and determined young women were determined to get as much as they could out of the next four years. And they’re counting on their athletic scholarships for their college careers. They don’t want unintended pregnancy to stand in the way of their dreams. This is why they both requested intrauterine devices (IUDs) that day.

I see a lot of young women in my office for the same reason. Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC), like IUDs and the implant, are a great option for teens who don’t want to worry about pregnancy. LARCs are the most effective reversible birth control methods we have, and as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have noted, they are appropriate for teens.

IUDs are the most popular method of birth control used by family planning practitioners, which speaks to their safety and efficacy. Most women are excellent IUD candidates, regardless of age or whether they’ve had children or not. And depending on what IUD option they choose, they don’t need to worry about birth control for three, five, or ten years.

Despite all this, there is still a great deal of misinformation out there about IUDs in particular. Sometimes a patient will say that she’s interested in getting an IUD but that a friend told her that they were dangerous, or that she heard only women who have had kids can use them. I always explain what I know to be true: IUDs are safe and effective and appropriate for women of all ages.

The implant (Nexplanon®) is also popular with my younger patients. In one large contraceptive study, over 40% of those under 18 chose the implant. Smaller than a matchstick, it is discreet and hidden under the skin of the inner arm. It is an easy two-minute insertion that feels like getting a shot and doesn’t require a pelvic exam. It has the lowest failure rate of any form of contraception — 0.05% — and works for three years.

I want all my teen patients to leave my office with the birth control method that is right for them, which is why we discuss all the options available. If you are a health care practitioner looking to learn more about LARC and teens, here are some great resources:

New! Updated Educational Modules Available

ARSHEPTwo updated Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Education Program (ARSHEP) modules are now available for download: Caring for Transgender Adolescents, which explores gender identity and the experience of transgender adolescents and serves as a tool for clinicians to provide primary care for transgender patients and understand their sexual and reproductive health needs; and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth, which discusses the way that homophobia affects health outcomes for LGBTQ youth and how providers can develop comprehensive services to fulfill the needs of these special populations. ARSHEP prepares a select group of physicians to give free educational sessions to other providers about the best practices for adolescent reproductive and sexual health. Read more about our innovative curriculum and learn how to request a free CD-ROM and/or a free presentation.

2013 Abortion Provider Awards Presented to Doctors from New Mexico and Chicago

 Two doctors honored for their unwavering commitment to providing reproductive health services

New York, NY—Last night, Physicians for Reproductive Health (Physicians) honored two doctors at its annual Rashbaum-Tiller Awards ceremony:

Actor Martha Plimpton—known for her roles in film and television and as one of the founders of A is For…, an advocacy organization allied with the reproductive health movement—delivered an inspiring keynote address thanking physicians who provide abortions and calling for support of their lifesaving work.

In her introduction, Physicians President and CEO Jodi Magee said: “With this year’s awards we recognize two providers who are remarkable individuals, highly regarded in their professions, and outstanding examples of commitment in their work and advocacy on behalf of women’s health. Indeed, for both of these wonderful physicians, there is virtually no distinction between the three—their lives, their careers, and their advocacy all go hand in hand.”

Eve Espey, MD, MPH, is a former Physicians board member currently serving as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Associate Dean of Students, and Family Planning Division Chief at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Espey is a nationally recognized expert in the field of long-acting reversible contraception and is dedicated to reducing unintended pregnancy through the increased use of contraceptives. “In places like New Mexico, barriers are magnified, hurdles are higher and challenges are more daunting,” said Dr. Espey while accepting her award from Dr. Linda Prine, last year’s Rashbaum Award winner. “When I am sitting bruised in my chair in the ring, from threats from Operation Rescue, from opposition in the hospital…. [I’m reminded] there is no more important work than helping women realize their potential through access to reproductive health care.

Willie Parker, MD, MPH, MSc, accepted the George Tiller, MD, Abortion Provider Award, from Dr. Douglas Laube, Physicians’ current board chair and Dr. Parker’s professor in residency.  For several years, Dr. Parker, a Physicians board member, has traveled extensively to provide abortions to women in underserved areas with the most restrictive laws. On accepting his award, Dr. Parker remarked, “We who provide abortions do so because our patients need us, and that’s what we are supposed to do: respond to the needs of our patients. I think that Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel said it best: ‘Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.’”

Martha Plimpton gave an impassioned speech celebrating providers and their work to break down barriers to comprehensive reproductive health care access. Ms. Plimpton emphasized the importance of speaking out on reproductive rights, reproductive justice, and on behalf of these providers: “Shame is not an option. 

Leadership Training Academy Fellows Speak Out

LTA Class of 2013May has been a busy month for our Leadership Training Academy Fellows and alumni—our physician-advocates have appeared in over a dozen media outlets, speaking out on a diverse array of reproductive health topics.

On May 1, Fellows Dr. Erika Levi and Dr. Joshua Nitsche testified in North Carolina in opposition to House Bill 716, a “prenatal nondiscrimination” bill that would punish physicians and undermine the trust between women and their doctors. “A passing comment like, ‘I always wanted a girl,’ could force me to refuse to perform the procedure,” Dr. Nitsche noted.

Program alumna Dr. Tracey Wilkinson was interviewed by Free Speech Radio News about point-of-sale restrictions on Plan B emergency contraception. Later that week, Dr. Wilkinson decried the Obama administration’s decision to appeal a federal judge’s ruling to lift these restrictions in a letter to the Los Angeles Times, noting: “Medical opinion is solidly united that this medication is safe for women of all ages, and research shows women know when and how to take it. There is simply no scientific reason to fight Plan B going over-the-counter for all women, and the new age limit will create restrictions for all women in need of Plan B.” Following that letter, Dr. Wilkinson spoke to a Los Angeles Times columnist about the importance of access to Plan B.

For Mother’s Day, Fellow Dr. Rebecca Trotzky-Sirr and program alumna and former board member Dr. Pratima Gupta contributed essays to the Strong Families Mama’s Day Our Way celebration, which highlighted the diversity of parenting and the aspects of being a “mama” that are often overlooked and under-celebrated. Dr. Trotzky-Sirr’s piece about the stigma faced by teen parents, “For the Mamas Who Don’t Get Love on Mother’s Day,” appeared on Feministing: “[W]hen a pregnant teenager enters my office and declares she is ready to be a mother, I believe her. I support her. I know she has the inherent capacity to succeed, because I was once just like her.” Dr. Pratima Gupta wrote a piece for Raw Story about her experience as a mother, an abortion provider, and as a woman who has had an abortion: “Choosing adoption, ending a pregnancy, or raising a child is a personal, often complicated and emotional decision. But one thing is pretty simple: that decision is better left to a woman and her family. I know this firsthand.”

Dr. Joshua Nitsche published a letter in the News-Observer (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC) about House Bill 693, a parental notification bill that would prevent teens from receiving confidential medical services such as contraception care or mental health counseling: “Consider my teen patient whose parents threw her out of their house when they learned she was pregnant, or the young woman who became pregnant after an assault by a family member….requiring their parents’ consent would have been unreasonable, likely dangerous, and would have delayed, if not prevented, my patients’ receiving desperately needed prenatal care.”

Reuters Health interviewed Fellow Dr. Kate Shaw about a study that examined methods of shortening second-trimester abortion procedures