Safe Medicine? More, Younger Girls Starting On Birth Control

VIDEO: Elisabeth Hasselbeck tries to shed some light on this delicate subject.
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Pat Fatemi says there is not a moment of the day that she isn't worrying about her 13-year-old daughter, Daria.

She's concerned about everything, from the activities she's involved in to the pressures she faces from her middle school classmates.

"The kids are just so far advanced, talking about sex," the Tuxedo, N.Y., mom told "Good Morning America." "It's really, really scary."

Those fears prompted Fatemi to make a doctor's appointment.

Not a pediatrician for her young daughter, or even a psychologist to address her own fears, but an appointment with a gynecologist to discuss putting her daughter on the birth control pill.

"No matter how much I tell her and talk to her, she doesn't know what going to happen when she's with a boy and it all happens too fast," Fatemi told "GMA." "So I'd want to get her on the birth control pill as soon as possible."

Fatemi is not alone in thinking that birth control is appropriate for girls her daughter's age.

The number of teenage girls on the birth control pill has jumped 50 percent in the past decade in the U.S. alone, according to a study released this March by Thomson Reuters.

Today, one in five American girls between the ages of 13 and 18, two-and-a-half million teens in all, are on the birth control, the study found, and doctors say the age at which teens start on the pill is getting younger and younger.

"We have put people on the pill who are as young as 12," Dr. Mary Rosser, a gynecologist in Larchmont, N.Y., who treats adolescents told "GMA."

Rosser attributes the growth of birth control use among teens to the increasingly young age at which girls begin to menstruate, some as young as age 10, and the rising number of sexually active teens.

"Almost half of teenagers ages 15 to 19 report they have had sexual intercourse at least once," Rosser said.

Rosser says most parents come to doctors, seeking birth control prescriptions for their daughters, in order to treat their teens' acne, regulate menstrual periods, and to prevent teen pregnancy.

"I think it's okay to have their teenager on the pill if they are ready to go on it and they ask for it," Rosser told "GMA" of the approach she takes with her own patients. "I think it's safer than having a teen pregnancy."

While Rosser takes a proactive approach towards birth control for teens, the rising popularity of the drug does not come without controversy.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology asserts the pill is safe, but acknowledges it is associated with a heightened risk for blood clots.

Several studies in recent years have also suggested a possible link between the pill and breast cancer, with organizations like the World Health Organization even calling the pill a carcinogenic.

"I've found that some women who've been on birth control pills for a while have trouble conceiving," Dr. Erika Schultz, a New York City-based internist who specializes in women and hormone issues, said to "GMA."

Schultz said she believes the pill can do more harm than good, and worries that doctors are overprescribing the pill to a generation of teens seduced by glossy ads put forth by an oral contraceptive industry that generates sales of $4 billion per year.

"I see a lot of women who bring me their daughters with symptoms of fibromyalgia, mood swings, depression or weight gain that disappear when the birth control pills are removed," she said.

Rosser reports there is growing talk in the gynecological community of offering more contraceptive options for teens, such as IUDs, which provide a safe, effective, non-hormonal alternative, but the devices are not yet being offered to the greater population of teenagers.

The divided opinions espoused by the medical community, and the limited options, have left mothers of teenagers with a dilemma: do they expose their teenage, or younger, daughters to the pill in hopes of preventing pregnancy, or wait until they are 18 or older to let them make the decision?

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