Nearly two-thirds of women in the United States wish they could purchase their birth control pills over the counter, according to a new nationally-representative survey from Ibis Reproductive Health. About 30 percent of respondents who don’t currently use birth control, or who have opted for a less effective contraceptive method like condoms, reported that they would probably start taking the pill if they could get it without a prescription.
Oral contraceptives are the most popular form of birth control. But many women compromise the method’s effectiveness by failing to take it as directed, partly because of the inconvenience of needing to make a trip to the doctor to get a prescription for it.
Tying birth control pills to annual well-woman check-ups is an antiquated practice that doesn’t necessary have any medical benefits. Unlike the United States, the majority of other countries around the world already offer birth control pills over the counter. This past fall, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that the United States should join those countries, and amend its policy to offer oral contraceptives without a prescription.
“There’s mounting evidence that this is safe, this is effective and women really want it,” Dr. Daniel Grossman of Ibis Reproductive Health, who led the study, told Reuters Health. “I see this issue, of moving the regular birth control pill over the counter, as the next big advance in improving access to effective contraception.”
Previous research has shown that eliminating some of the barriers to obtaining effective contraception helps lower the rates of unintended pregnancy. Requiring women to obtain prescriptions for birth control represents one hurdle, but cost issues are another. Obamacare has helped ensure that women don’t have to worry about struggling to afford the contraception of their choice, since insurers are now required to fully cover birth control. But even when some birth control methods, like emergency contraception, become available over the counter for some women, insurance companies still won’t cover it without a prescription — which defeats the point of over-the-counter access in the first place.