COMMENTARY | Like most parents, I'm concerned about living in a world where powerful-- and potentially dangerous-- medications are routinely prescribed to children. Unnecessary antibiotics, antidepressants, and cold medicines for children have caused a hidden epidemic, about which organizations such as the FDA and American Academy of Pediatrics have vocally expressed concern. That's why I was glad to see evidence that prescriptions for most children's medications are on the decline. However, I was happy to see that at least one form of medication-- birth control-- is actually becoming more popular for children.
The study, published in Pediatrics, found an overall decrease of 7 percent in the number of prescriptions written for children. Prescriptions for kids' cough medicines, cold medicines, antidepressants, and antibiotics declined between 2002 and 2010, signaling a shift away from over-dependence on potentially harmful drugs. However, the authors of the study documented a staggering 93 percent increase in prescriptions for contraceptives for children. This class of medication is actually one that I would like to see more children using.
As a mom, I absolutely don't want or expect my daughter to be sexually active before she is mature enough to handle the responsibilities associated with sex-- and I don't believe that most teens are actually ready for it. However, should she reach a point during her adolescence at which she intends to be sexually active with a boy, I hope that she will know that she can come to me, and to her doctor, for effective contraception. The AAP's recent findings demonstrate that more girls (and parents) feel comfortable requesting and receiving birth control. That, to me, is a necessary evolution of responsibility among girls.
Other factors could also explain the dramatic increase in birth control prescriptions for children, however. The authors of the analysis note that their findings are quite different from those previously encountered by the CDC. Since they tracked the number of prescriptions written, not the number of children taking these medications, the authors believed that girls using birth control might simply be staying on the medications longer.
It's important to note, as well, that not all girls using birth control do so because they are sexually active. Mayo Clinic notes that girls may begin menstruating as early as age eight, and that complications such as severe cramping and blood loss are not uncommon. Pediatricians may prescribe contraceptives to help deal with these and similar problems.
As a mom, I'm not eager about giving prescription medication to children, and I'm glad to see that we're prescribing fewer drugs to our children. However, I'm also very glad to know that more girls are seeking and obtaining birth control when necessary, since it means that fewer girls will experience unplanned pregnancy or abortion. While I don't support or condone sexual activity among children, I'm glad to know that those with a need for contraception are more likely than ever to have access to it.
Juniper Russo is a health advocate, freelance writer, and dedicated mom living in Chattanooga, Tenn.