Warning over young people getting birth control advice on social media

New research is warning there could be an increase in unplanned pregnancies as young people seek birth control advice from online influencers.

Navigating different birth control methods can be overwhelming for many young people.

"I had no idea of options," said 23-year-old Lucy Britland, who started taking an oral contraceptive pill when she turned 17.

She said hormonal birth control methods were not taught to her at school, so when she started looking into longer-term options, like the IUD, a small device placed inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy, she turned to social media for advice.

"If I had seen all this stuff before going on any birth control at all, I would have been a lot more sceptical than I am now," said Britland, who noticed social media influencers were heavily focusing on adverse side effects.

A new University of Delaware study has found viewers are more likely to receive content about stopping hormonal contraception rather than how to use it or have safe sex.

The findings show most of the influencers analysed talked about stopping hormonal methods, with 74% saying they had discontinued or planned to discontinue them.

"Many are now using non-hormonal options like 'Daysy' or 'Natural Cycles' - which are apps that help you track your cycle," said lead author Emily Pfender.

Medical Advisor for Family Planning New Zealand, Dr Beth Messenger, said she's worried the advice people are getting from some social media influencers could lead to unsafe sexual health practices.

"If you don't use it correctly, it isn't going to work as well as you want, and the expected consequence of that would be more unintended pregnancies."

She said there are other non-hormonal options, like the copper IUD to consider if someone doesn't want to use hormonal birth control.

"If you're looking for an extremely effective non-hormonal method of contraception that is reversible - it is a very effective method."

However, Dr Messenger warns there is no one size fits all option when it comes to birth control.

"It is worth talking to a health professional who is familiar with contraception who can talk about the good and the bad and make sure you are going to use it correctly," she told 1News.


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