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If you have vaginal sex and you don’t want to get pregnant, use birth control. Birth control can have other benefits, too (like helping with PMS and acne).

Should I get on birth control?

You can get pregnant anytime you have penis-in-vagina (AKA vaginal) sex, including the very first time you have sex. So if you have vaginal sex — or think you might sometime soon — and you don’t want to get pregnant, use birth control.

There are lots of different kinds of birth control. Some work better than others. But using any type of birth control is better than using nothing at all. People who have vaginal sex without birth control have an 85% chance of getting pregnant within a year.

Preventing pregnancy isn’t the only reason people use birth control — it can have lots of other benefits, too. Some kinds of hormonal birth control (like the pill, patch, ring, shot, implant, and the hormonal IUD) can do things like ease cramps and PMS, and make your periods lighter. The pill, patch, and ring can also help with acne and make your periods more regular. Almost everybody uses birth control at some point.

Bottom line: if there’s a chance you’ll be doing any sexy stuff that can lead to pregnancy, birth control is your friend. You can ask your doctor or local Planned Parenthood health center about getting on birth control, whatever your reason.

How do I get birth control?

You can get some types of birth control, like condoms, at drugstores or convenience stores. Anybody can buy condoms, and you don’t need to show your ID. Sometimes you can get free condoms from community clinics, your school nurse, or Planned Parenthood health centers. Condoms help protect you from STDs, too! So it’s good to use condoms even if you’re on another method of birth control.

Some types of birth control work better than others. You need to see a doctor or nurse to get the types of birth control that work best to prevent pregnancy — like the IUD, implant, shot, pill, patch, or ring. You can get these kinds of birth control from your regular doctor or gynecologist, or at your nearest Planned Parenthood health center.

Usually you don’t need a full exam to get birth control. But what happens at your appointment depends on your personal health, the doctor’s policies, and the kind of birth control you want. Here’s some stuff you can expect:

  • Your nurse or doctor will talk with you about your medical history (ask you questions about your health in the past) and check your blood pressure. Sometimes they do a pelvic exam, but they usually don’t need to.

  • The nurse or doctor may ask about your sex life: whether you’ve ever had sex, what kinds of sex, how many people you’ve had sex with, if you’ve used birth control before, etc. It’s super important to be honest so they can give you the best possible care. Doctors aren’t there to judge and they’ve heard it all before — they just want to help you stay healthy.

  • You can also ask any questions you have about birth control. You might want to talk with your doctor about the IUD or implant — these types of birth control are the easiest to use and work the best.

If you get the IUD, implant, or shot, your doctor will give it to you in the health center. If you choose the pill, patch, or ring, you’ll probably get a prescription. You can use the prescription to pick up your birth control at a drugstore or pharmacy. Some doctors might even have pills, patches, or rings in the health center to give to you at your appointment.

If you have health insurance, you probably won’t have to pay anything for your birth control. If you don’t have health insurance, ask your local Planned Parenthood health center about how to get free or low-cost birth control.

Will your parents find out if you get birth control from your doctor? It depends on the laws where you live and/or your doctor’s policies. But many places have special laws that let teens get birth control privately. Either way, talking to your parents about birth control can be really helpful. Read more about birth control, your parents, and privacy.

What if I mess up or don’t use birth control?

If you make a birth control mistake or have sex without using birth control at all, don’t freak out — you still have a few days to try to prevent pregnancy.

Emergency contraception is a kind of birth control that can help prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception means taking a “morning-after pill” or getting a Paragard (copper), Mirena, or Liletta IUD.

You can get some kinds of morning-after pills (like Plan B) at the drugstore or at your local Planned Parenthood health center without a prescription. But it’s important to take it as soon as possible after unprotected sex, or it won’t work as well. Another kind of morning-after pill, called ella, is more effective than morning-after pills like Plan B — but you need a prescription from a nurse or doctor to get it.

Paragard (copper), Mirena, and Liletta IUDs are the most effective form of emergency contraception out there. If you get one of these IUDs put in within 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex, it’s more than 99% effective against pregnancy. But a doctor needs to put the IUD in, and sometimes it can be hard to get an appointment on short notice.

Call your doctor or your local Planned Parenthood health center as soon as possible after unprotected sex for help figuring out the best type of emergency contraception for you. Learn more about emergency contraception.

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