For many people under 18, the thought of becoming pregnant and raising a child can be petrifying.
That said, if you’re a girl who is under 18 and sexually active, it can make sense to be on the pill. It's often one of the first birth control options many young people learn about, along with things like condoms.
Unfortunately, a reality of healthcare in today's day and age is that many of us want to get into the doctor’s chair, get our prescription, and get out of there, with minimal awkward sex chat with our doctor.
This can mean that we don’t ask enough questions about the medication we’re taking, which can leave us with a lot of uncertainty.
To help you out, we’re answering your questions about taking the pill under 18 so that you can make informed decisions and take contraception into your own hands.
Can I take the birth control pill if I’m under 18?
Yes — if you’re under 18 you can get the contraceptive pill from a doctor or nurse practitioner.
You’ll need to be assessed by a medical professional before they make the decision, but provided you are a responsible young adult and are able to take the contraceptive correctly, you will usually be prescribed it.
While specific legislation addressing a doctor's treatment of children exists in South Australia and NSW, the rest of the country makes decisions based on a common law that goes back to a 1986 English House of Lords judgement, Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority .
This 30+ year-old judgement was found after a mother argued that guidance given to GPs that said doctors could prescribe contraceptives to a person under the age of 16 was unlawful.
Ultimately, the majority of the House of Lords rejected her claim, determining that there were instances in which a child could consent to their own treatment .
There is no law surrounding how old you have to be before you go to the doctor alone, but they will only prescribe you a medical treatment if they think you understand its consequences and conditions.
What is the right age to start birth control?
There’s no right or wrong age to start birth control, however, it is recommended that you have an established menstrual cycle before potentially disrupting it with the pill.
16 years old is normally a good age to start birth control, as most girls have started their periods and have a natural rhythm going. Plus, it’s the legal age to have sex in most of Australia (it is 17 in South Australia and Tasmania) .
Starting birth control is very personal and it really depends on each young person and their emotional and physiological maturity.
Can birth control be kept a secret from my parents if I’m under 18?
In the state of NSW, automatic confidentiality means that you will be able to keep your medical history confidential from your parents if you’re over the age of 16.
By law, a doctor or health professional must keep what you say private once you’re over the age of 16, so long as nothing you say is likely to harm someone or put your life at risk.
This varies state by state, and you can find more information about your confidentiality rights here.
Is it safe to take the contraceptive pill if you’re under 18?
Yes. Oral contraceptives are a safe option for under 18s.
Of course, just like with any other medication, there are side effects associated with taking contraceptive pills, including nausea, breast tenderness, irregular menstrual bleeding, and mood changes. There are also rarer health risks like blood clots and a slightly increased risk of breast cancer and it is definitely important to be aware of these risks.
However, you should also know that so far, none of these have been conclusively proven to be worse for those under the age of 18.
If you have any adverse side effects it is essential that you talk about them with your doctor — however, this is the case for any woman, not just those under 18.
It’s also important to note that different types of non-hormonal and hormonal contraceptives will affect your body and mind in different ways.
Plus, while all these birth control methods help prevent pregnancy, not all protect against sexually transmitted infections, which is also something to keep in mind when looking for the right contraception for you.
Is birth control as effective on under 18s?
There has been no indication that birth control is more or less effective for those under 18, coming in at around 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when taken correctly, no matter how old you are.
The only thing that doctors sometimes pick up on is the fact that young people may be less responsible and therefore forget to take their medication or not fully understand the risks associated with it.
This is, obviously, a subjective reading of someone's situation.
If you want to learn more about the contraceptive pill, how it prevents pregnancy, its pros and cons, and more, take a look at our guide.
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