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 the first contraception many young women learn about, along with things like condoms.
Unfortunately, a reality of healthcare in 2020 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 before the age of 18, so that you can take contraception into your own hands.
Can I take the pill if I’m under 18?
Yes - if you’re under 18 you can get the contraceptive pill from a doctor.
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 the doctor will only prescribe you medication if they think you understand the consequences and conditions of the medication.
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.
Sixteen-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 the girl and her 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. The contraceptive pill is a safe option for under 18s. Although there are risks associated with taking the contraceptive pill, 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 discuss 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 contraceptive pill will affect your body and mind in different ways, so finding the right contraception for you is crucial.
Is birth control as effective on under 18s?
Yes - there has been no indication that birth control is more or less effective for under 18s. The only thing that doctors sometimes pick up on is the fact that under 18s 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.
In terms of its efficiency as a contraceptive, the birth control pill is just as effective on under 18s as over 18s, coming in at around 99% effective when taken correctly.
For more information on the contraceptive pill, take a look at our guide.
Plus, you can take a look at the pros and cons of the pill here.