A young woman holds a positive pregnancy test.
Kids & Family Health

The Truth about Teen Pregnancy

Are you sexually active and wondering how you can prevent being pregnant? Or do you think you might be pregnant or might have gotten somebody pregnant? It can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. 

There are many local and statewide resources to help you understand the options of how to prevent becoming pregnant, raising a child, exploring adoption, or having an abortion.  

Remember, you are not alone. At AltaMed, our specialists are here to support you in making the best decision for your life, but first, you need all the facts.

Teenagers Couple Laughing Together

From Sex to Pregnancy

We know that people have sex for a variety of reasons beyond trying to create a baby. Having unprotected sex, however, can lead to unexpected pregnancies.

How would you know if you are pregnant and how do you find out for sure? Here are a few common signs:

  • Missing your period after sex — that is the big one and you should take a pregnancy test if your regular period has not happened.
  • Discomfort — pregnant people report nausea, vomiting, and sore breasts in the initial stages of pregnancy.
  • Mood swings — some people get emotional in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
  • Tiredness — your body is working hard to support new cells growing inside you. Pregnancy also affects your hormones and can lower your energy levels.

Home pregnancy tests are a good first step, but it is best to confirm your results, positive or negative, with a doctor.

Next Steps

If you had unprotected sex in the last 72 hours (about 3 days), you could go to any drug store or pharmacy and get Plan B, available through AltaMed providers, or the Next Choice pill. These are also known as “morning after” pills because they can stop someone from getting pregnant and can be purchased by anyone no matter their age or gender.

Also, you do not need a prescription and you do not need your parents’ permission. Keep in mind that the sooner you take it, the better the chance of stopping an unwanted pregnancy. It’s important to note, if you weigh more than 165 pounds these pills might not be effective, but there are more options available. 

Emergency Contraception Options After 72 Hours (3 Days)

Did you surpass the 3-day window? Do not worry! There is another morning-after pill called Ella, which prevents pregnancy for up to 5 days after unprotected sex B. Ella can be prescribed by AltaMed providers, or can delivered the next day through consultations with NurxPRJKT RUBY, or the Planned Parenthood Direct app.

Ella is considered more effective than the other morning-after pills. However, it requires a prescription. Once again, the sooner you take it, the better! Keep in mind that Ella is more efficient for women weighing less than 195 pounds.

But the most effective type of emergency contraception is the Intrauterine Device (IUD) no matter if it was put in on day 1 or day 5 after unprotected sex. To use this method, you will need the help of a doctor or nurse.

The Paragard, Mirena, and Liletta IUDs work great as emergency contraception, regardless of your weight. They can also prevent pregnancy for up to 8 to 12 years, depending on the type you choose. Always consult with your doctor first to find out what is best for you.

A doctor and teenage girl talk in an exam room.

Other Alternatives 

Since it takes two people to get pregnant, ideally the two people involved would discuss what to do next. If you are under 18, you need to let a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult know about your situation. You can only “hide” a pregnancy for so long. The sooner you tell someone, the sooner you can come up with a plan for “what’s next.”

  • Adoption — If a baby is not part of your plan, there are plenty of parents who would be happy to adopt a child. Organizations like Planned Parenthood can talk to you about options for your pregnancy, including adoption.
  • Abortion  Ending the pregnancy is another option. You can get an abortion in California without the permission of your parents or a guardian even if you are under 18. Most family planning clinics can perform an abortion and they cannot tell your parents. Be careful of places that call themselves “crisis pregnancy centers,” “pregnancy resource centers,” or any place that focuses on changing your mind about your pregnancy. A trustworthy provider offers the information you need to make your own decision.
  • Raising the baby — It can be done. There are a LOT of places that offer resources to teen parents. Organizations like Generation Her help teen moms reach their education and career goals. The state has programs too, including the Adolescent Family Life Program and Cal-Learn. You can also reach out to the AltaMed Youth Services team for information about options and resources available to you.

A Pregnancy Scare?

If you thought you were pregnant, but turns out you are not, there is no reason to take any more chances. Unprotected sex can lead to a lot more than a baby. Protection is key. Lots of places give out condoms and can help you get birth control. They can also test you for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV, chlamydia, or gonorrhea.

Altamed Clinic Building

The AltaMed Teen Center Has You Covered

Sometimes it is easier to talk to people like you. That’s where the AltaMed Teen Center comes in. You can have an online chat with our staff of educators about sexual health, issues at home or school, or anything else. No judgment, no telling your parents. Just reliable information you can use to make healthy choices.

We offer free confidential sexual and reproductive health services including:

  • Health education
  • Birth control
  • Condoms
  • Emergency contraception
  • Pregnancy testing
  • STI and HIV testing and treatment
  • Referrals for PrEP and PEP (daily medication to prevent HIV before or after exposure)

Did we already say it was confidential? To make an appointment or ask a question anonymously, call or text 323-786-3132.

You have rights and there are laws protecting your sexual health. Contact the ACLU if you feel your rights have been violated.

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The Truth about Teen Pregnancy