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J Adolesc Health. 2008 Nov;43(5):432-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.06.008.

Initiation of oral contraceptives--start now!

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Department of Pediatrics, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, New York 10029, USA.



Conventional practice for initiating oral contraceptive (OC) pills involves waiting to start the pills with the next menstrual period. We investigated whether immediate initiation of OCs would lead to improved continuation rates and therefore decreased pregnancy rates in adolescents aged 12-17 years.


Study subjects were recruited from adolescent women presenting to 2 inner city clinics requesting OCs. A total of 539 adolescents between 12 and 17 years old were randomized to conventional initiation of the OC pill (Conventional Start [CS]) versus immediate, directly observed OC pill ingestion in the clinic (Quick Start [QS]). At 3 and 6 months the participants completed interviews that questioned them about their OC continuation and pregnancies.


In all, 86% of our adolescents completed follow-up interviews at 3 months, and 77% at 6 months. There were 45 pregnancies during the study period. QS was associated with continuing OCs to a second pack (adjusted OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.1-3.3). There was no difference in OC continuation rates at 3 or 6 months. Only 26% of adolescents continued OCs at 6 months and we identified 45 pregnancies during follow-up.


We conclude that directly observed, immediate initiation of oral contraceptives (QS) with adolescents briefly improves continuation although overall continuation rates are discouraging low. Health care providers could use this simple strategy to start adolescents on OCs at the initial visit. The low 6-month OC continuation rates highlight the need to seek novel ways to provide adolescents with the necessary tools to be successful at contraception.

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