Doctors are getting a reminder that adolescents with developmental disabilities are interested in sex too and their need for guidance and contraception should not be overlooked.

In a policy update issued Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that discussions about sexuality and birth control options should be part of routine care for young people with disabilities.

“Sexuality and sexual health care needs in this population are often overlooked, yet data reveal that adolescents with disabilities and chronic illnesses have similar levels of sexual behaviors and sexual health outcomes,” the statement from the pediatrics group said. “Adolescents with disabilities and chronic illnesses also have similar needs for counseling and support of healthy sexuality development.”

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Beyond preventing pregnancy, those with disabilities may need contraception to control menstruation, for hygiene issues or stemming from the use of antipsychotics and other medications that can cause abnormal bleeding, according to the academy.

The guidance indicates that oral contraceptives, patches, injections and IUDs can be used to address these concerns. Tubal litigation, hysterectomy and other surgical approaches “are rarely necessary and present special ethical and legal issues,” the policy statement said.

The advice specific to those with developmental disabilities is part of a broader policy statement on contraceptives for adolescents, which serves as an update to guidance last issued in 2007. This is the first time the recommendations have addressed the unique needs of those with disabilities.

Overall, the academy is urging pediatricians to steer patients towards IUDs or hormonal implants over other forms of birth control. These long-lasting methods are preferable, the group indicated, since they are reliable and do not require teens to remember a daily pill.

The pediatrics group is also recommending that doctors urge their patients to use condoms every time they have sex.

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