Where Can I Get Birth Control?

Locating Who Sells Contraceptives

Today, there are many non-prescription contraceptive options for individuals and couples, and they are available at very reasonable prices. Over-the-counter birth control methods (OTC) are sold at all pharmacies, grocery stores, "big box" retailers, as well as through online versions of these American retailers. When used properly, the majority of over-the-counter birth control is relatively effective at preventing an unwanted pregnancy. In addition, condoms (both male and female types) have the extra advantage of providing excellent protection against the possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Many couples choose to combine the use of a condom with another form of OTC birth control (sponges and spermicides), just to err on the side of caution. OTC birth control prices may vary between a particular retailer's in-store and online offerings. So, it is always a good idea to do some research before making a final decision or purchase.

Birth Control Options

Many contraceptive methods that do not require a doctor's prescription are widely available for very reasonable prices. These over-the-counter birth control (OTC) options are available at pharmacies, grocery stores, "big box" retailers, as well as through online versions of the above.

When used correctly, most of these over the counter birth control methods are relatively effective at preventing an unwanted pregnancy. In addition, both male and female condoms have the additional benefit of providing excellent protection against the possible spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Many couples chose to combine the use of a condom with another OTC birth control method, such as spermicide or a cervical sponge, just to be extra careful.

Purchasing OTC Birth Control

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making a decision about purchasing over-the-counter birth control methods:

  • Options. There are more contraceptive options to choose from through large retailers' online stores than at their traditional stores. Shipping costs tend to be quite low as well, often as little as $1.
  • Information. Large retailer websites also provide helpful information about any local store's current stock of a particular type of OTC birth control.
  • Cost. Prices for over-the-counter birth control can vary, one way or the other, between in-store and online options. So, it pays to do a little bit of research before making a final decision and/or purchase.
  • Selection. Large chain grocery stores typically have a selection of male condoms and spermicides for sale on their shelves. Their pharmacy departments typically keep emergency contraception pills behind the counter.

Types of OTC Contraceptives

  • Male Condoms: Male condoms are one of the easiest and cheapest contraceptive devices available on the market, ranging in price from free (sexual health clinics often give them out for no charge) to approximately one dollar a piece. Prices also vary based on where they are purchased and the variety chosen, such as ribbed, colored, flavored, etc.
  • Female Condoms: Female condoms are starting to become much more popular, and hence, more available to the public. Quite a bit more expensive than male condoms, they can be ordered online or bought at many drugstores for about four dollars each.
  • Spermicides: Spermicides, generally used in combination with condoms, are available online as well as in drug and/or department stores. Prices vary, from one to six dollars per use, depending on where they are purchased and the type chosen, such as gel, foam, cream, suppository, etc.
  • Contraceptive Sponges: Sponges can be difficult to find and tend to be much more expensive than other OTC birth control methods. They cost approximately five dollars per use.
  • Fertility Awareness Methods: This method of natural birth control is pretty much free, depending on the method a couple uses. Basic requirements include a calendar and a thermometer ($10 dollars or less). A set of CycleBeads can cost anywhere from $10 to $25 dollars. Home ovulation kits vary in price from $15 to $70 dollars each, depending on brand/type.
  • Emergency ("Morning After") Contraceptives: At the present time, there is only one type of emergency contraceptive pill: Plan B One-Step, available over-the-counter without the need of a doctor's prescription. Kept behind the counter at pharmacies or available at health clinics, they are sold to any female 17 years of age or older. Depending on where the pills are purchased and choice of generic versus name brand, they cost anywhere from $10 to $50 dollars each (without medical insurance).

Plan B One Step

Women's health advocates in the U.S. have been lobbying for easier access to emergency birth control for at least 10 years. As a result, within the last few months, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the unrestricted sale of emergency ("morning after") contraceptives (Plan B One-Step). The FDA has lifted the 17 years of age and over minimum age requirement.

At this point, Plan B One-Step pills are still kept behind the counter at drugstores (with the age restriction) but they should be moved out onto the shelves fairly soon. This new FDA ruling should make it much easier for all women to avoid an unwanted pregnancy in the event of condom failure, missed doses of prescription birth control pills, and/or rape.

Resources

  • Bedsider (2013). Getting birth control over the counter. Retrieved from: http://bedsider.org/features/78
  • Telegraph (2013). US approves over-the-counter sale of morning after pill. Retrieved from:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10133743/US-approves-over-the-counter-sale-of-morning-after-pill.html

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