Whether you choose the pill, patch, vaginal ring or another method of contraception, the decision to begin taking birth control is a responsible one if you know you don't want to risk becoming pregnant. While birth control methods are widely available, there are a few things to take into consideration if you are underage or still on your parents' health insurance plan.
Laws vary by state, but most states allow minors to obtain contraceptive services once they are in high school and have started menstruating.
Ideally, you're first step is to talk with your family physician or gynecologist. After a physical exam, you can discuss available methods of contraception and she can advise you which one would be best for you. If you are under 18, this visit will require your parent's permission. While this may not seem like a viable option, your parents should be informed in case any medical issues arise whil you are taking birth control.
Family planning clinics
If there is a local family planning clinic or Planned Parenthood nearby, you can receive discreet services regardless of your age. These clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners and professionals who work exclusively with reproductive healthcare. To obtain birth control here, you will have to undergo a complete physical, pap smear and submit the proper paperwork. These clinics have contraceptives on-site, and following the exam and counseling, will provide it to you at very little or no cost if you are a student or do not have a job or other income.
These clinics also provide STD testing, which is critical for reproductive health. Since birth control does not protect against HIV, AIDS or any other sexually transmitted disease, you should still be practicing safe sex by using condoms.
Birth control at school
Another option that may be available to you if you are a minor is to obtain birth control pills from your school nurse. While not all high schools offer this option, many have taken steps in this direction. Your nurse can discreetly administer pills to you and counsel you on their proper usage and risks.
Check with your school nurse to see if this program is available in your district. Even if it is not, she will be able to guide you in the right direction for obtaining birth control services.
Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy if you have unprotected sex or forget to use birth control. Emergency contraceptive pills are available at pharmacies without a prescription, but you must be 18 to purchase them, so your parents may have to step in.
Emergency contraception is also available at family planning clinics. If you are under 18, you can obtain it in the same fashion as you would birth control pills, except that you won't need an appointment.
If you find yourself faced with an unplanned pregnancy despite your best preventative efforts, your local family planning clinic can advise your of your options. In almost all cases, if you are under 18 you will need parental consent for an abortion.