Can You Get Birth Control Without A Prescription?

birth control over the counter

There are pros (convenience) and cons (costs) to buying birth control over the counter. | Source: Shutterstock

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, your insurance probably covers your birth control prescriptions. But will you even need a prescription soon? Maybe not.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists–a really influential group when it comes to your babymaker–released a report saying that selling birth control over the counter could really help curb unintended pregnancies. You might be like, “Okay, how? Especially if birth control is available all over as it is?” Here’s the thing: A lot of women and girls who need birth control can’t always afford the doctor’s visit to get it, and even if they can, often it’s hard to squeeze an appointment in before you run out of your pills, which can lead some women to miss doses.

If birth control is available over the counter, you can run in anywhere at anytime and snag a pack if you need it–no need to wait for an appointment, sit in a waiting room, or wait for a fax to go through from your doc. It also makes sense when you consider that Plan B is available over the counter for anyone 18 and up–and it’s got the same hormones in it as birth control pills do, just in a higher dose.

The only issue that comes with selling birth control pills over the counter is the price issue. Because of the Affordable Care Act, most of us won’t have to pay a copay for oral contraceptives (meaning when you get a prescription for them, your insurance will cover it and save you out of pocket expenses). If birth control is sold over the counter, then you’ll have to pay for it out of pocket. That presents a conundrum, because if someone can’t afford a doctor’s appointment to get birth control pills, they likely won’t be able to afford paying for them out of pocket, either.

The FDA is offering to meet with drug companies to discuss options regarding over the counter birth control, but it’s unclear if any of them have bitten the bait yet. And if they do go through with it, chances are birth control would be treated like Plan B in that anyone under 18 would need a prescription for it. So while it may not even happen at all, if birth control were to be sold over the counter, it likely wouldn’t affect you for a while.

Do you think birth control should be sold over the counter? Would you be more likely to use birth control pills if you didn’t have to go to a doctor first? Would you be willing to pay out of pocket for birth control pills if it saved you time from going to the gyno? Tell us in the comments!

Can you get free birth control? Probably!

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  • Amanda Price

    Hi Jessica – I think that women should have the right to easily buy oral contraceptive pills, like men can easily buy condoms. Would be great if there’s a pill that they can swallow instead of us taking the step against unwanted pregnancies – but that’s like five years in the making. I’ve read something from eQuibbly that making pills available like your box of tampons may not be covered by your health insurance, unlike when it comes with a prescription. How true is this?

  • Kim

    The idea of birth control sold over the counter is very appealing–the ease and convenience of obtaining a pack is certainly a huge advantage. However, besides the out-of-pocket cost, OTC birth control would also eliminate the requirement for regular gynecological check-ups. I’m the first one to complain about what a hassle and and how uncomfortable PAP smears are, but they happen for a good reason: it’s important to make sure infections and things like cervical cancer are watched very closely. As it is, the Affordable Care Act has already reduced the number of required gyno visits (you only need one every 2 or 3 years, depending on your doctor, rather than one every year) to have a prescription renewed. While I think it’s an understandable tradeoff to make BC more widely available, I think eliminating the need for regular visits altogether is very problematic.

    • Kai

      Whether birth control becomes OTC or not, a pelvic exam shouldn’t be required. Many women, especially victims of rape/molestation, would rather risk cancer than put themselves in a sexual situation again. And it IS sexual; though doctors are supposedly trained to view pelvic exams as non-sexual, contact with genitalia is contact with genitalia. Women should have access to pelvic exams, but it should not be required to get birth control.