The position paper, published online in the journal Pediatrics, suggested doctors give underage teenagers prescriptions for emergency contraceptives such as Plan B or levonorgestrel before they have sex, because emergency contraception is most effective when used within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Dr. Cora Breuner, a physician at Seattle Children's Hospital who helped write the policy statement as a member of the pediatrics academy's Committee on Adolescence, said emergency contraceptives such as levonorgestrel, if taken within three to five days, can prevent pregnancy by stopping the ovary from releasing an egg or by stopping sperm from fertilizing an egg.
Breuner said teens were more likely to use emergency contraceptives if they were readily available. Currently, women age 17 or older can buy emergency contraceptives over-the-counter if they show proof of age and pay for the medication, which costs about $50, Breuner said.
Younger teens require a prescription, and some pharmacies require parental consent, but there are no federal or state laws requiring parents be informed when their children get contraceptives, said the Emergency Contraception website, a joint project of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals and Princeton University's Office of Population Research.
The teen pregnancy birthrate in the United States has declined 44 percent since 1991, but that is still the highest in the developed world and five times higher than in France and 2.5 times higher than in Canada, U.N. data showed.