Should birth control pills be available over the counter?

There’s an interesting Op-Ed over at the New York Times suggesting that it’s about time the birth control pill be available as over the counter medication. Since a prescription is the status quo, it never even dawned on me that changing that was an option. This would certainly help women who don’t have access to a doctor or had other complications arise (forgetting your pills before a vacation, etc). And in a country plagued by teen pregnancy, it would certainly help sexually active teens who don’t have methods of getting a prescription, whether they be for monetary or parental reasons.

But on top of the social aspect, Kelly Blanchard makes many good points on why we should make this change based on the science behind the pill:

The pill meets F.D.A. criteria for over-the-counter medications. Women don’t need a doctor to tell them whether they need the pill — they know when they are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy. Pill instructions are easy to follow: Take one each day. There’s no chance of becoming addicted. Taking too many will make you nauseated, but won’t endanger your life, in contrast to some over-the-counter drugs, like analgesics. (There are even side benefits to taking the pill, like reduced risks of ovarian and uterine cancer.)

It’s true that the pill could be dangerous for women with certain conditions. Women who are 35 or older and smoke, and those with high blood pressure, are at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke if they take oral contraceptives that combine estrogen and progestin. But these are not complicated conditions to identify; women already have to tell their doctor about their health problems when they get a prescription, and research shows that women can screen themselves for contraindications almost as well as providers do.

What do you think? Is it time for birth control pills to be available over the counter? Do we have these regulations in place just because it deals with women’s sexuality, or are their valid medical concerns that Blanchard failed to mention?


  1. says

    I would bet money that if the pill became an OTC drug, it would be almost as revolutionary as when the pill first came out.I remember my girlfriend in high school was afraid to go on the pill for a long time because she didn’t want to have to confront her parents about it.

  2. Diana Glennie says

    Hell yes it’s time for BC to become over-the-counter. Although I personally sync my prescription renewal with an annual check up so I don’t feel inconvenienced, I can definitely see how many women avoid getting the pill because they don’t have a GP, or they’re too embarrassed to ask. Here’s hoping.

  3. Redwraithvienna says

    In my personal opinion : Yes and No. The yes side is : Its easy to use, has been long tested and so on. I wont diagree with you there. The No side on the other hand … well birth control pills work through a pretty massive change in your hormone system. Which works quite nicely in most cases. But if it doesnt work out, and you dont go and see a doctor for the next prescription it can really be problematic. Especially since the symptoms might not even get connected to your birth control but might manifest themselves in totally different ways … So i do think that some sort of control mechanism should be enforced … maybe a check list for people that they have to fill out when they buy them … or something like that.

  4. says

    I don’t know. The pill can cause other little-known side effects that can be pretty horrible, I say from experience. And the known side effects, listed, are not to be taken so lightly. I think that it is a good idea to have a doctor’s exam before taking hormones.I don’t think you need a parent’s permission to go to Planned Parenthood, do you? Maybe I am too used to living in a liberal area, but I never knew anyone who couldn’t get the pill, when I was younger.Another thing, when I was a teen, I was complaining that I had to come in for a yearly exam before I could get my pills and someone at PP told me that was how they made sure women came in and got exams. It was sort of a broader health initiative to require an exam first. Without needing a prescription to get their pills, how many young women would go for an annual every year? Something to consider.

  5. Valis says

    Wow, I’m totally stunned! I’ve read the title of this post several times over and still can’t believe you can’t get the Pill OTC in the US. That is just so…archaic. In my country (South Africa) you can walk into any chemist or clinic and get Birth Control Pills FOR FREE! Not only don’t you need a prescription, you don’t even have to pay for it, it is considered a basic human right. Wow, just wow.

  6. libraboy says

    My ex-wife was “lucky”. She managed to get her very Catholic parents to sign off on the pill due to her dysmenorrhoeac and menorrhagiac 14-day cycle.That being said, in my experience women have to sometimes play around with the hormone levels of the pill before they get it right. My wife moved to a progesterone pill at the advice of PP, due to history of breast cancer in the family. Fortunately, my little adjustment no longer makes a hormonal prescription necessary.

  7. says

    The pill should probably be OTC, but it won’t be in the forseeable future. Too many dinosaurs, both in and outside the medical establishment.For example: my doctor wouldn’t let me RENEW my prescription until I scheduled and got a pap smear. :PI mean, okay, fine, keeping track of my downstairs’ health is a Good Thing, and I’d been putting it off, but holding my birth control method over my head to incentivize things? Totally lame.

  8. says

    I think the simple solution would be to make sure that the first time people get it they (ideally) see a Dr but the pharmacist who gives it to you should be pretty knowledgeable about how it works.

  9. LeAnne says

    I have mixed feelings. I feel like the birth control pill should be more easily available..BUT the reason planned parenthood requires a doctor appointment is so that you can get an STD test/pap smear before you go spreading your disease (or lack there of) around. STDs are on the rise, so i feel planned parenthood is doing good work by making it mandatory to get tested before they’ll prescribe it to you.that being said, though.. what about the people who are in a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship? is it reaaaaaaaaally necessary to get that EVERY year if you’re healthy?

  10. LeAnne says

    Just goes to show how ridiculous the United States is! Good to know that reproductive health isn’t such a *CONTROVERSIAL* issue in South Africa.

  11. libraboy says

    Are condoms free there too? I would, no offense meant, consider that more a necessity than the pill.

  12. Tamiller41 says

    as the mother of a 16 yr old girl and as someone who took the pill with deadly side effects. NO. this is great for a grown woman who has the maturity to make the decision that something is wrong and needs the medical help of a dr but you are talking now about 14,15 hell even 12 yr olds picking them up. and if you put an age limit they can get a friend to get them. just like cigarettes and alcohol. they dont have the maturity or knowledge to be able to determin if this is right for them. their bodies dont always need the pill or can handle it. i know that sounds backwards but you are a grown woman and intelligent enough to make that kind of decision. they are free in South Africa. that is great. BUT………Aids and HIV is huge in South Africa. Huge. which sounds like to me there is no education to go along with the pill which is so readily available. they can get STD and still not get pregnant. The pill is not candy and should not be taken so lightly. i only took it for one year. I had TIA’s and was lucky i did not stroke out. My left side felt funny not numb but funny. I finally went back for my yearly exam and told the dr. he told me to quit taking them. i had trashed them 2 months before that on my own. I had to see a nuerologist for a year afterward to check for damage. I was told to find another method of birth control and to never take the pill again. I have warned my daughter about it. My cousins daughter died, dropped dead, from the Birth control pill. she was 24. there is a huge lawsuit over this. it is the one with a commercial now. yasmine or something like that. The pill is not the answer to birth control. it is great and i am glad it is out there but it is not the miracle of miracles. Education is. and if it is out there like candy there will not be the education needed. you can put a pamplet in the pack but what horny 14 yr old gives a rats ass about it. i am glad you are a liberal person and more power to you. i love that you dont back down from your opinion especially if you think you are right and you can back it up.But you are thinking like a 23 yr old college grad with no kids. sorry if that sounds hateful. not meant to be. but that is what you are. Kids dont need OTC pills. they need education. you are lucky your parents were smart and made sure you got the proper education. Not all girls are that lucky. alot of girls are not that lucky. work in a middle high school or high school for a few months. not a private one or an upper class public school. go to the ghetto or even just a hick town and you will see what i mean. sorry this is so long. i could go on. but i won’t.

  13. hippiefemme says

    I’m a bit torn on the topic. Part of me says YES resoundingly, but another part of me wonders what would happen to the cost and to people who may not be able to afford it OTC. I get my BCP at the free clinic because I’m a poor college student–and I’m sure you understand what this is like, if not from your own experience then from your friends.Even though it is a slight inconvenience to get a prescription or to visit the free clinic (once a year), prescriptions are heavily discounted compared to some medicines that have become OTC. When I first started taking Claritin, I could get it for $4/month with a prescription. Now that it’s OTC, my doctor was reluctant to write a prescription because she figured I could just buy it. The problem, however, is that it changed the price from $4/mo to $30/mo, which was difficult and sometimes impossible to afford. Over a year, that’s a difference of over $300!It makes me wonder if something similar might happen with BCP. Plus, I imagine teens wouldn’t be able to walk into a store and buy BCP. Because sex education and sexual health is still controversial in some parts of the country, it would probably be monitored behind a locked counter, and you might even need to be 18 to purchase it. As it stands in most areas, teens can get free BCP at Planned Parenthood clinics without parental consent. Clinics will maintain confidentiality for teens who need birth control, but a teen in an area that prohibits minors from purchasing BCP would have to rely on her parents or an older sibling to buy it.I also think it would be embarrassing, like buying condoms or anything else related to reproduction (or prevention against). Can you imagine buying BCP from a store clerk that you used to babysit? Or someone who might tell a teen’s parents? I enjoy the anonymity of the free clinic and the benefits of a free or sliding scale exam and free birth control.

  14. hippiefemme says

    I agree that condoms would be more a necessity for the prevention of STDs but not so much for the other health benefits of taking birth control pills.

  15. says

    Yes, the birth control pill should be over the counter. All the “but then people won’t get pap smears/STD checks!” crap is entirely beside the point. The people that aren’t getting the pill because they don’t have a doctor aren’t all just forgoing sex. They’re still putting themselves at risk for STDs…. they are just ALSO putting themselves at risk for pregnancy. Not to mention, MEN don’t have birth control or anything else held over their heads to force them to get STD testing or other advice about sexual health.

  16. V Williams says

    Another reason for the “no” column: Insurance has to cover prescribed medications. (This will be a stronger argument when everyone has insurance.)Also, ditto on the need for strength adjustments. There are also different types of estrogen and progesterone that can be played with. It isn’t like there is a single version of the pill that everyone would get. That’s a negative side effect to advances in medicine: treatment gets more complicated.

  17. hippiefemme says

    I would say that it is really necessary for people in a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship to get an STD test every year. Some STDs can remain asymptomatic for years, like HIV, so someone may commit to a relationship without realizing that they could be carrying a disease. Plus, a pap smear checks for changes in cervical cells and could catch cancer early, so it is important for people who might be “healthy” otherwise.

  18. libraboy says

    Well, given the meteoric rise of infection of HIV in women in South Africa, I would say it’s more important than the pill (I apologize for getting somewhat off-topic here).

  19. says

    I thought they just updated the guidelines saying it wasn’t necessary for women to have one every year until they hit a certain (later) age, but maybe I imagined it.

  20. libraboy says

    “what about the people who are in a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship?”…who never cheat?

  21. says

    I definitely see your point (as a person with a daughter of my own), but I see no reason why education can’t be given. If education is the answer, educate your kids. As you said, just like alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. We don’t make people get a prescription for alcohol just because some people abuse it. And you never know what might make your kid drop dead. Peanut butter is enough for some kids, not to mention the even more common risks associated with pregnancy (particularly teen pregnancy). Like I said, I see your point, but I don’t think micromanaging is the answer, either.

  22. libraboy says

    Whoa! She opened the topic for discussion; she didn’t cram her opinion down your throat. Lighten up a little, please.

  23. Grant Gordon says

    I must admit, I was also stunned to find out that you couldn’t get the pill over the counter in the states (I’m also from South Africa) It’s vital that people have easy access to birth control. And to answer Libraboy, yes, you can get condoms for free at any clinic. However I would say that the biggest problem in SA is still educating people on birth control and STDs. And it certainly didn’t help having HIV deniers like our previous president and health minister dictating public policy.

  24. Valis says

    Yes, condoms are free. Pharmacies/drug stores are compensated by the government for the condoms/Pills they give out. Clinics are run by local government and have bowls filled with condoms/Pills on the counter for everyone to help themselves. You can get a free consultation as well if you so wish. They also do free HIV testing.

  25. Gemma Goldstein says

    We have them over the counter in Spain, I don’t understand where is the big deal about it…the pharmacist can give enough advice and it’s pretty straight-forward.

  26. Bookewyrme says

    Other people have mentioned, but I want to re-iterate the health dangers. My own personal experience can underline the dangers. There’s a hormone-imbalance condition (which I can NEVER remember the name of) which runs in my family. Only a few of my female relatives have it, but because of that history, I had to make sure I didn’t have it as well, because otherwise taking birth control could have killed me. The testing for this required extensive blood-testing (not just a self-exam) and I also had to play with the hormone-levels once I did get my pills (the ones I first took reacted adversely with my inhaler when I had an asthma attack. That was NOT pretty). So, personally, I think it would be a pretty stupid idea to not require a doctor’s exam before embarking on a course of birth control. However, I would LOVE it if you didn’t have to get a prescription every friggin time. In fact, that’s one reason why I don’t take it any more, since I could no longer afford a doctor, and therefore couldn’t get the prescriptions anymore. Maybe some sort of compromise could be reached, so you could buy it OTC once you’d had a proper exam by a qualified doctor making sure that messing with your hormones wouldn’t hospitalize you. I think, more important than making it OTC is making it cheaper. If you don’t have insurance, most birth control is prohibitively expensive. The other reason I quite taking it. Condoms are considerably cheaper. Which is unfortunate, since there’s a lot to be said for all the awesome side effects of the Pill. ~Lia

  27. Amilianna says

    I think that it should be available over the counter. I know that part of the reason that they require a prescription now is to try to force women to come in for their annual exams, but I think that this is ridiculous. If you choose not to have this exam it’s true that it could be detrimental to your health. You might miss a chance to catch cervical cancer early enough to do something about it. Shouldn’t that be incentive enough to get it?I just don’t feel that denying people birth control (and thereby possibly causing them to get pregnant) just so they come in for an exam is acceptable. “You choose to not do something that is good for you? Well, have a baby as punishment! Muwahaha! That’ll teach you!” Um… what?

  28. says

    In the UK we have to go to the doctors to get the pill – mainly because they want to check blood pressure. I also had to get taken of the oestrogen pill, and put on the progesterone pill as I was getting migraines – and the oestrogen pill can increase your risk of stroke if you get migraines. That is something that wouldn’t have been picked up if I could just get it from the pharmacy. Then again, if they trained pharmacists to do this I would have no problem getting it from there (and I think there was talk of this happening, in fact it might even have happened I’m not sure!)I also recently had the progesterone implant put in, I’d definitely recommend it to people – no chance of forgetting you forgot to take the pill.

  29. Amilianna says

    While I can see your point, I feel that it is a bit focused on your personal and familial experiences. NO OTC drug should be treated as “candy” and I don’t think that people are saying that birth control should be treated as such. But there are plenty of OTC drugs out there right now that someone who has a specific familial or personal history with should avoid.I, myself, have been told by doctors for years that aspirin could potentially cause a fatal problem for me due to my heart murmur. Does this mean that they shouldn’t sell aspirin OTC, because of people like me who could have a fatal reaction? What about people who are allergic? I think that a better idea is for everyone to talk to their children about OTC drugs in general (and any specifically known problems in detail) and what to do if a problem arises when taking ANY type of drug – whether it be OTC, prescription or illegal.

  30. new-skeptic says

    i’ve been thinking about this article for a few days now. my reaction was and is still resoundingly YES the pill should obviously be over the counter!!! but after a long debate with my formerly pre-pharmacy student boyfriend, i do understand that there are some potentially sticky points here. for example, the issue of cost. if the pill becomes OTC, insurance may choose to stop covering it, and then the cost might become prohibitive for the same people who one would think would be benefited (teens, people who can’t afford the dr. appointment, etc.). the other very complex issue, for me, is the question of the annual exam. i will admit that if i could get my pills over the counter, i would skip my annual exam at all costs. i’m sure this is a pretty common sentiment. however, i agree with other commenters that it is patronizing, and not quite fair to hold birth control pills hostage unless someone is willing to get a pap smear. yes, i know i should be getting one every year, and i know it will alert me to many health problems should they arise, but i strongly believe that birth control is a human right, and all arbitrary barriers to access should be destroyed.

  31. says

    I think that the availability of the pill and other birth control pills should be greatly increased. However, I am a little hesitant in allowing an medication that can have such a dramatic effect on hormones to be given without a doctor’s supervision. I say still prescription, but free. And any medical provide that refuses to prescribe birth control pills as a moral issue, should have his/her license stripped.

  32. Tamiller41 says

    i dont think that is the point a physician is trying to make. if they were to say yeah here is another rx go get them then this woman has something wrong the dr could have caught at an annual exam then she is going to be pissed and sue. besides being in the interest of the woman it is also a CYA cover your ass thing.

  33. Tamiller41 says

    a right? no. a choice yes. but not a right. there is a difference between what is right to live and freedom of choices. it should not be so difficult to obtain nor should it be so easy. does it need to be looked at differently? of course.

  34. new-skeptic says

    the ability to choose whether or not you want to be pregnant IS A HUMAN RIGHT. i don’t think there should be any restrictions on birth control pills.

  35. csdx says

    That’s why the stronger drugs are OTC (as opposed to on the shelf), you need to actually talk to the pharmacist to order the drug. The pharmacist will go over some of the basics about the drug with you right there, so it’s not being tossed out like candy, and you’ll have an opportunity to ask about the drug if you do have any concerns.

  36. Tamiller41 says

    alcohol and cigarettes are recreational use for the most part. if you take to much of either you die. the pill is not for recreational use ( well ok it is recration) but it is not meant to be taken like that. there are so many different kinds out there. it is not like choosing a tampon for what flow you have. and if you leave it up to the pharmacist then they are going to have to be educated and sit down and discuss just like a dr. so they become dr’s. i guess because my daughter is 16 and i see her 15 yr old girlfriends getting on the pill or getting pregnant it just hits a nerve. they can go to the dermatologist to get them. no exam. take them for “acne”. if they are going to have sex then they need to have their lady bits looked at and checked out and properly educated on STD and HPV and syphilis and all the others. they dont. Jen, do you think at 14 or younger you would have had the knowledge or maturity to make the proper decisions involved in taking the pill every day at the same time and not just when you had sex? ( believe me they think like this at that age) where at 14 do you get the money to get them? if they go to the clinic then they are free. and the condoms to keep from getting std’s are free also.

  37. danielm says

    Uh, sorry, not to belittle your experiences, but they sound rather like scare mongering and bull. I think it likely that, if what you refer to happened at all, it wasn’t because of the pill and that you should seek medical attention for whatever syndrome it is you have.there are literally millions of women taking birth control pills across the world – to “drop dead” from taking a hormone which your body makes naturally trips my skepticometer into the redline.You can have headaches, moodswings, funny periods, stomach pain…but death? really? …no, no sorry I don’t believe you.I think the pill should be available over the counter and subsidized out the wazoo, along with condoms (and free, helpful, sane sexual advice), then maybe the rising STD levels would drop again along with unnecessary abortions.

  38. LeAnne says

    I also would like to believe that there’s a difference between Yaz and the typical birth control (orthotricycline), considering Yaz only gives you a period every 3 months.

  39. Stonesoncanvas says

    The other option is to make it BTC (“behind the counter”). This classification of drugs does not require a prescription. It does require some pharmacist interaction to determine that there are no contraindications and the patient is aware of potential risks/side effects.

  40. annonymous says

    Yes. OTC. Hook me up. I haven’t been to a doctor in 8 years. I don’t like doctors, and have all kinds of crazy excuses for not going to one.Seriously, I have not had a doctor since I became an adult. My last doctor was my pediatrician. I went to a clinic once in college, 8 years ago.My bf bugs me about the pill, and I know he’s right…but I do not want to go to a doctor, or a clinic, or any of that. I feel healthy and prefer to be oblivious of any potential problems.

  41. Vanessa Voj says

    There is ONE problem that I can see. There are different doses of the pill. When I first started on it, my breasts were tender all the time. I had an appointment with my doctor who told me that the dose was too high. She prescribed me a lower dose and now everything’s fine. So, how would that work over the counter? Would the pharmacist be the one to sort out that problem? Would you have to figure out yourself that you need a lower dose? I don’t actually know the extent of what pharmacists are trained to do.

  42. says

    I agree. I think it’s something, especially for first time users, that most women would feel more comfortable and be better off having gotten some interaction with someone who knows what they’re doing. I’m a big believer that the pharmacist should have more power to recommend treatment than they do. There’s no reason, for example, that someone with asthma should have to go to a doctor to get an inhaler.

  43. Tamiller41 says

    you are a man? it was the pill. that was 25 years ago. the hormones in the pill did cause it. My gyne said it did. it happens. sorry if that does not feel good. hormones are nothing to be messed with. my cousins daughter dropped dead because of a blood clot that went to her heart. she was a month away from graduating from nursing school. she died at the hospital at class. dropped dead. she had been to the dr. and told them her leg hurt. it was not taken seriously. that happens when you are female and complain about something that is just not right. hormones can cause all kinds of stuff. ummm pregnancy? yeh. hot flashes. fun fun. how does that happen. strokes. yep. blood clots. diabetes during pregnancy. yep. high blood pressure. toxemia. you body does not make a synthetic hormone naturally. lack of education. point again why not OTC.

  44. says

    I disagree with the conclusion you come to with this.That said, yes, you should always be informed what you put into your body, and yes, I can foresee how different hormones can cause you problems.The article also talked about the progesterone only pill – which I would like to point out makes a BIG difference then the estrogen+progesterone pills (which is the pill you likely took 25 years ago). The PO pills have far less side effects, and are much easier for many women to take.You can kill yourself with many OTC drugs today by abusing them or using them without knowing what they can do. Just because you can doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be accessed.I would agree, if you are having problems with a drug, you should see your doctor to have it checked out, and provider intervention is needed. However, as a general rule, to start the pill (or more specifically the PO pill), that can be a decision that is made by a woman herself.As far as age goes, that gets trickier, but I would rather have a 15 year old have access to something she knows she needs because she’s having sex and isn’t great about using protection, but feels that if she can’t go to her parents for approval (many different reasons). At least it will help prevent pregnancy.

  45. RG says

    I have a genetic blood disorder called factor five leiden which makes my blood have a tendency to clot. When I went to my doctor to be put on birth control, she informed me that taking the pill (or any other hormonal form of birth control) would increase my (already high) chances of a blood clot sixfold, and promptly refused to prescribe it for me. As annoying as it is to have to rely on condoms for the rest of my life, I can understand that the pill is not worth the risk of a severe blood clot. Furthermore, since it is a genetic disorder and we now know it’s in my family, other family members can inform their doctors of this and thus be prevented from taking the pill if they test positive for FVL. So long story short,I think there are good reasons why it’s not available over the counter. There are too many risks involved with taking hormones every day and doctors need to make sure it is safe for patients to do so before prescribing the pill. Lots of people don’t realize that the pill is not risk-free.

  46. says

    I’ve worked with a few pharmacists, and really, they know more about the drugs then the doctors do a lot of the time. I have seen them tell people to “bring this up” with their primary care physician when they mention some side effects. They can’t do too much to care, but they do, sometimes, let the person know the right things to tell the provider.

  47. Paul says

    I was wondering about a closely related question this morning, and I hope I can get some info from the folks here: Does the US military make contraception available to service people? I have heard isolated accounts of people facing a dressing down when condoms were found amoung their belongings during inspections, and horror stories about the wives of servicemen not being able to obtain birth control through the military medical system, but I have no idea what the official policy is.

  48. Tamiller41 says

    oh i totally agree that the girls should have access to the pill. get them and take them. everyday. but they need to be under a dr’s care, IMHO. of course that is all it is, an opinion. i live in the south. deep south. teen pregnancy is a BIG problem here. they need education. not just put it out there on the shelf. made available yes, but i still THINK they need an RX. Ok i will step down off my soap box. thanks for listening to all. :)

  49. Zenlite says

    I had a friend in high school that was almost killed by a bottle of Tylenol. That there is a chance of adverse reactions is not just cause to deny it over the counter status.In my sex education class, when I was 12 and again at 14, I relearned what my parents had taught me when I was 8: what sex is, the way a condom works, what the pill is and what it’s risks are. At various times, I learned the uses and dangers of all the other medications that from time to time existed in our cupboard.The claim that a relatively safe (particularly compared to many over the counter items, whose safety is *over* estimated by the public) product is unsuited for public availability because of your unfounded suggestion that no teenager reads the labels on their medication doesn’t hold water.

  50. Katsuhiro says

    They’ve gone to every other year for… I can’t remember if it’s under 35 or under 40. One of those. I was pretty happy when that guideline got changed.

  51. Katy says

    I didn’t like the interaction between my anti-depressant and the pill, so I got an IUD. It took a few months to get used to it, but it’s wonderful for those who don’t want hormonal birth control. Something to consider for you, too!

  52. Thomas Winwood says

    “you body does not make a synthetic hormone naturally.”There is no appreciable difference between a hormone made via chemical synthesis and a hormone from a human being.

  53. says

    Yes. So many people cannot afford a physician’s visit, and I think the risks are small enough to warrant making it over the counter. To those who posted personal bad experiences, while I have great sympathy for whatever problems you’ve had, it’s by far the exception for the pill to be problematic in any significant way. A few problems with birth control doesn’t warrant making it difficult for everyone to get it.

  54. says

    Okay, honest question: It *seems* like you are more anxious about your daughter and her friends having sex at a young age, almost more than the pill itself. Are you worried about these girls having sex or are you worried about the Pill itself? The thing is, there are only 2 kinds of pills: combination pills and progestin only pills. It’s no different than deciding acetominophin vs. ibuprofen vs. naproxen despite the many brands these 3 otc pain medications fall under for when you have a headache. You do what works for you. Again, I agree with you that girls need to be educated, but doctors don’t always educate girls on the dangers of STDs just because girls get the Pill from them. And to me, that’s a parent’s job anyways, and if a parent doesn’t do their job, it’s not fair to accuse doctors or teachers of not picking up the slack, or punish every other woman and girl because of it. I don’t want a stranger educating my child. I’d rather do it myself so I know what information she is getting.And I do agree that many girls don’t understand how to use the Pill, but many girls 14 & under don’t have the maturity to use a condom either. I don’t see how your arguments don’t fit an argument for restricting every other form of birth control. Are you for restricting access to condoms? What about the risks of teenage pregnancy?

  55. says

    Since people are talking about health problems from the pill, I will just share my experience is that using a doctor to get the pill caused me a lot of problems, so having a doctor prescribe them doesn’t mean it will magically make everything better. For one thing, I have yet to have a doctor do any sort of bloodwork whatsoever to test for these genetic conditions before prescribing the pill to me. Secondly, a doctor of mine seduced by shiny pharmaceutical company gifts changed my prescription even though I didn’t complain about it. The new prescription she gave me gave me all sorts of problems. I was suicidal, in major pain, and I had to go on 5 medications to counteract the effects of that one. So being under a doctor’s care does not mean everything will be fine and dandy.And, I should point out, that those on here who are talking about friends and relatives who died all had their bcp’s prescribed. It didn’t save them.

  56. ZelKwin says

    I cannot even express how wonderufl it would be if we could have the pill OTC. I have a phobia of that doctor and can’t even walk by the women’s center in my college’s hospital. As it is, hormonal birth control, which I want terribly, is utterly unavailible to me. It’s not even an issue of pregnancy for me, I just have painful cycles. It will be years of therapy before I will even have to opportunity to have birth control unless it’s made OTC.

  57. Valerie says

    I’m sans healthcare right now so the pill is costing me about $40 a month (which is probably less than diapers). Soon my prescription is going to run out and I’ll have to wait until I can sign up for a plan and get a follow up exam and Rx renewal. I wonder what over the counter BC would cost?I’ve been on the pill for a long time to regulate my cycles as a young teen, so I don’t remember any boob tenderness or mood shifts. If you’re on anti-depressants or other drugs that might interact with BC, then you already have healthcare and a provider who you trust; they will help you find the right option.At any rate, if you don’t have any condoms lying around either, remember the pull-out method kids!I hope to know more about this later…this week I wanna be an endocrinologist when I grow up :)

  58. RG says

    I’ve thought about it, but the idea of an IUD scares me. I’ve heard it’s painful when it’s inserted, and can cause severe cramps afterward, especially during your period. I get bad enough cramps during my period, I’d prefer not to worsen them. We’ll see though, maybe in a few years I’ll feel differently. Thanks for the comment =)

  59. RG says

    Oh…right, I hadn’t considered the fact that just seeing a doctor costs money in the US. That would definitely make it harder for younger teenagers to get on the pill without having to tell their parents…I guess there’s all sorts of facets to this problem that need to be considered.Even so, it may be the exception to have problems with the pill, but what about pre-existing medical conditions that have nothing to do with the pill, but make it unsafe to take? If you don’t know that you have a condition beforehand, and you can just buy birth control over the counter without getting a medical examination first, you’ll be putting yourself at risk without even knowing it.

  60. says

    There is nothing about the Pill that a pharmacist can’t explain to a teenager. They should be OTC so that religion can stop interfering with protection and so there are fewer teen pregnancies and fewer abortions. I fail to see any harm in this plan, and perhaps some great benefits. Now if only American schools would stop lying to their students about the dangers of the pill and effectiveness of condoms…

  61. Guest666 says

    Its wrong to give it for free but it is also wrong to require a scrip. Your country gets it half right ;)

  62. Angela says

    I get my birth control via Planned Parenthood. I had to talk with a nurse who asked if I had any medical conditions and took my blood pressure, but otherwise the only test they did was to make sure I wasn’t already pregnant. That “examination” is fairly typical from what I can tell, and it certainly wouldn’t have caught any condition I wasn’t aware of. A pharmacist could have done the exact same thing.My only concern with making the pill OTC is cost, since OTC meds aren’t generally covered by insurance or state/federal health plans.

  63. Lo says

    Oh my god.I feel like the blinders have been lifted off. Of course the pill should be over the counter. It wasn’t so long ago that women had to go to the doctor to get a simple anti-fungal for yeast infections, even though after you get it for the first time it’s pretty damn obvious what it is if you get it again.I’m a huge advocate of choice in birth and women taking control of their health in general, yet this didn’t even occur to me. Thank you for this post.

  64. says

    The pill can kill you. I know three people who’ve had clots that have almost killed them because they didn’t have the proper bloodwork done before using the pill. It should not be made over-the-counter, because those without access to it for parental reasons (they don’t approve), still won’t be able to get it – how are they going to get to or afford to buy it OTC?After having watched two girlfriends go through crazy phases due to their hormones being out of whack from using the wrong birth control (and wouldn’t go to the doctor to get it changed), plus the previously mentioned danger and knowing what I know from working in a Pharmacy for 7 years, I say PLEASE leave it behind the counter.

  65. Collin Pearce says

    What I’m reading from this anecdote is that good doctors help; bad doctors don’t. If you go through a doctor, you could get one or the either. If you go through other means, well, you’d get other problems.

  66. Claus says

    I agree. My father is an Ob-Gyn, and as a curious kid in the past, we often talked about how the pill works (among other nerdy stuff about the repr. system). Stronger or weaker dosages make a pretty big difference, specially on a medication you will be taking every day for long periods. I had one girlfriend who had pretty scary side effects from taking a too strong pill.I think that women should have as easy as possible of an access to the pill. Still, the pill is not a “simple” drug. Maybe facilitate access to Gyns instead?

  67. kendermouse says

    I think it’s an interesting idea, but the problem is, like it was stated at the end of the article, making it over the counter could potentially make it harder for some women to get, due to the price. Once a medication is OTC, most (if not all) insurance plans will no longer cover it, and without that help, it would likely be prohibitively expensive. If that particular hurdle could be overcome, I think it might be worth looking into.

  68. A-M says

    In the UK all forms of contraception are totally free apart from condoms, although you can even get those for free if you know where to go. Plus the visit to the doctor/nurse is free. So cost to the individual is not an issue. And yet we still have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Europe. Perhaps the pill should be available over the counter, but the pharmacist should be obliged to give specific information. Not just hand over a leaflet that can be left unread and forgotten, actually say specific things, like if you feel this way, see a doctor. Perhaps this would help.

  69. A-M says

    I find it amazing that people have to pay for contraception in other countries. The way the UK government sees it, handing out free contraception costs them and the the counrty far less, than paying for all that extra child benefit, schooling etc, that the unplanned children would bring. Let’s take a long-term view!

  70. Valis says

    Well that’s an interesting perspective. Why is it wrong to give it away for free? Don’t you think it should be a basic human right?

  71. Amilianna says

    From what I have been told by the various doctors I’ve had over the years, that doesn’t hold any weight. If you refused another kind of test for cancer and ended up with it, would you have grounds to sue? Do they force you to take bone marrow samples to make sure you don’t have leukemia every year? There are plenty of things that they don’t test for until you have some kind of symptoms. Even if they GOT sued because a woman went against her doctor’s advice and didn’t have an exam on a yearly basis, it wouldn’t hold much water in a court. All the doctor has to do is recommend the exam, explain it’s benefits, and then let the woman CHOOSE whether or not to make the appointment (and when!).Don’t forget that they also withhold your prescription for birth control if you don’t make the appointment “on time”. What if that month was hectic? You didn’t have enough money for the appointment? Or you just wanted to put it off for a month or two for other personal reasons? Oh, wait, you don’t get to make those kinds of decisions because if you do, you won’t be able to get birth control.I just think it is a disproportional response to the situation.

  72. says

    In short, Blanchard sets up a straw-man argument that the barrier between women and the Pill is having to get a doctor’s “permission.” In reality, the barrier is the cost of the prescription. There are good reasons why a woman should see a medical professional before getting the Pill — risks, side-effects, contra-indications, undiagnosed hypertension (which literally millions of American women may have), and the wide variety of choices in formulation and dosage — but there are no good reasons why half the states in the U.S. do not require health insurance companies to cover the Pill.

  73. says

    And also, going to the doctor is like going to the mechanic – if you let the doctor do whatever without asking him WHY, you’re going to end up with problems :/ Clearly, she should’ve just demanded being switched back to the other medication instead of getting 5 more meds :What can save you from dying from BC is KNOWING the dangers and asking for the blood test before getting it prescribed.One of the greatest problems with our culture in regards to healthcare is that we throw all our trust to the doctor, without asking for any sort of explanation or reasoning or expect our opinions to matter when it comes to our healthcare. Learn what it means to be a good patient advocate for yourself and your family/friends.

  74. says

    There’s a political reason: The Catholic church. There’s a pair of hospitals in Lafayette owned by an order of nuns, for example. The insurance that they provide to staff specifically doesn’t cover BC, for religious reasons. If there was ever legislation to force them to pay for it, there’d be HUGE political pressure to reverse it.

  75. Catherine says

    I have to speak up here. “The Pill” is not just a one-stop-shop trip. There is no one-size-fits-all dosing and having it over the counter could create a lot of problems. I have been on various “The Pill”s for over 7 years now and without careful observation from my Women’s Health doctor, I would have possibly committed suicide by now due to the severe depression that was brought on by Ortho Tricycline – a VERY popular “Pill” that is overly prescribed. How many women are taking a popular pill and suffering for it because they do not have good communication with their doctors? There are SO MANY hormonal options for “The Pill” and sometimes it is just trial and error (hopefully less error!) but having this process monitored by SOMEONE trained to do so is important.Now, that being said, I would love it if it were POSSIBLE for The Pill to be OTC, but I think this issue is just too large to overcome with our current health care system.

  76. Sal Bro says

    Tamiller, I’m very sorry to hear of the pill-related health scares and the death of your family member.Strokes and TIAs on the pill are a noted major side effect, but they are still rare within the recommended guidelines of the pill (under 35 and non-smoking). Your experiences make it sound like there may be an inherited propensity for blood clots in your family. Maybe a disclaimer should be put on the pill to “see a doctor if you have a family history of blood clots, stroke, or heart attack before taking the pill”.But for the vast majority of young women, blood clots due to pill use are rare and so shouldn’t necessarily preclude easy access to the pill. And while I agree that quality sex education is very important, sex education is not as effective as birth control. Education AND the pill should both be easily accessible.

  77. Sal Bro says

    Their drug formulations are different (Ortho Tri-cycline contains synthetic estrogen & progesterone; Yaz only contains synthetic progesterone), but with many pills it’s possible to only menstruate every 3 months. You just have to take active pills for 3 months at a time (instead of on a monthly cycle with a few days of placebos). With Yaz you can have your period every month or every 3 months (or on other time frames).

  78. Sal Bro says

    I’m glad that you were able to remain safe with a family history of bad reactions to the pill. With ANY drug, there is a risk for death due to allergic reaction (or other incompatibilities). This is just as true of ibuprofen as it is of hormones used for birth control.The documented risks of pregnancy and STDs far outweigh the risks of the pill, which is why many countries have already made birth control pills OTC. The large majority of women are fortunate to not be in your situation.

  79. Sal Bro says

    Yes, it is a human right to be able to choose whether or not to get pregnant. I don’t believe, though, that it’s a human RIGHT to have easy access to a medication that has documented serious (though rare) side effects, that somebody has to pay to develop, manufacture, and distribute.This is like saying that, because humans have a right to not be hungry, they have a right to eat Cheetos.As is apparent from my other comments, I do think that birth control pills (some, but maybe not all) should be available OTC. I don’t equate that with a basic human right, though.

  80. John Sherman says

    If it helped prevent teen and unwanted pregnancies, I would put birth control pills in vending machine.

  81. says

    Choosing whether or not to fuck (and where) is a _basic human_ right.Choosing whether or not you want to become pregnant is also a _basic human_ right.You don’t have the _basic human_ right to expect that one will not cause the other. The pharmaceutical industry is what provides that, not your body or your mind.

  82. says

    I’d like to jump in here, as a woman who has taken the pill and as a health care provider who has prescribed the pill and also someone who has worked in health insurance companies:Here in the US, with our current health care, I would not make BCPs OTC. It would be great to increase the accessibility but lousy because I’m sure the price would be outrageous. Not all policies cover them now and women are paying $40/pack or so. Cheaper than a baby but still a lot of money.As far as the health risks and the different doses/personal reactions: Ideally, I would love a girl to see a provider for the first set of pills, a trial of 2-3 months. The provider could test the sexually active for STDs, review health risks and give her free samples for the trial. That would give her time to see if those are the right pills for her and then, at the next visit – (which should be free as a follow up in my mind) – either get enough free pills for a year or an Rx for a year if her health plan covers them. I would rather put a 12 year old on birth control pills than to see her pregnant. Although, given most 12 year olds I’ve met who WERE pregnant, I’d rather either put the implant or an IUD in them.RE: IUDs. They are not cheap (exam, insertion can usually cost $300-400) but they can be left in for 10 years. At $360+ for pills a year, it’s a pretty good cost ratio. They may or may not increase your periods (depends on the type), but usually your body adapts after 2-3 months, just like being on the pill. Again, cramps with periods may increase. Some people find they ease off in the 2-4 month range, others take NSAIDs and grin and bear it for the day or two.Enough of my hobby horse. I’ll get down now and wander off…

  83. Buffy2q says

    I’d say yes just to make it readily available to women. It’s high time those who need it don’t have to worry about expensive doctor appointments, MDs and pharmacists with “moral objections” and other roadblocks that keep getting in the way. Women should be able to get the birth control they need without a bunch of hassles. I’d be a bit concerned about side effects, but the benefits far outweigh the risks.

  84. says

    I have to concur with this. Hormonal birth control can be deadly (for instance, it can cause blood clots). This is a case of it being safe “on average”, but for a significant percentage of the population, it is actually pretty dangerous stuff. I know of one person who started having serious headaches, and they were saying her blood pressure had become high enough she could’ve easily had a stroke.So no, I don’t think it should be OTC. There are several good OTC methods out there. I think we should make access to doctors easier and make sure that insurance covers the pill for everyone who wants it.

  85. Jamey says

    That would be the new screeching point of the Religious Right. “Birth control on demand!!” They’ve been screeching about “Abortion on demand!!” for some time which is kind of puzzling to me since they’re against it whether you’ve thought about it for 30 seconds or 30 days. Although I suppose on a purely rhetorical level, by implying women are treating abortion with all the same seriousness as they would in deciding whether to pick a booger, it’s an effective phrase to try and shift the debate from who has the right to make the decision to stuff like parental notification, ultrasounds etc. We just want people to take this stuff seriously (and by seriously, we mean do what we want.)

  86. Jessilee99 says

    Yes, hell yes. Like all things, the birth control pills have side effects, but no more so than tylenol or sudafed. With that in mind, I think the fear is that if birth control pills are OTC, women will stop getting annual exams. That may be the case, but women are capable of being responsible for their own health. I don’t think the threat of having an unwanted baby is the right carrot to be dangling so that the health care industry can screen for cancer and STD’s. Cancer and STD’s are big important issues, but they are important independent of each other and independent of pregnancy prevention. Lets not force it to be a package deal, if you dont want to get pregnant, take this pill, free of any conditions or hoops to jump through. If you’re concerned about STD’s or cervical cancer, come get tested and/or treated. Trust women to do what’s right for them.

  87. moxicity says

    Hmm. My country has free health care, so from my perspective, it’s very easy to get a prescription and when you have a refill emergency or whatever, then you can phone your family doctor and probably get the thing pretty quickly. Personally, I use the Nuvaring and since I don’t have to interact with it often, I keep forgetting to get a refill prescription at the appropriate time and am scrambling for the doctor at the last minute.Since birth control is easy to use and hopefully most people take the time to read the info sheets inside the packaging, it probably wouldn’t be a problem to sell birth control over the counter. The poster above pointed out that the health care industry might be worried women might not get annual exams were it not having to get prescriptions from the doctors. I really don’t wanna change the subject to men, but as an example: I’ve noticed that since most guys usually don’t have to deal with their peepees on a medical basis, they don’t see a urologist and check for testicular cancer and what their specific problems are. I might be blowing bubbles out my bum right now, but maybe women *would* be more careless about testing if they didn’t have to see gynos so often? I’m more of the opinion that people are generally quite lazy or uinformed on health subjects, it’s not just women *or* men. Although women’s bits are more persnickety, so we’d probably still need to see the ladybits-doctors. Ah… I don’t know. It probably would be a good idea to make birth control more available. I imagine teens with unfortunately conservative parents especially could benefit from this immensely.

  88. Guest says

    yeah, when i was on the pill, my general provider didn’t even let me know about the drug interactions of the bipolar meds he was also prescribing me, so doctors aren’t the ultimate answer. however, planned parenthood did a great job of letting me know all my choices – and i was living in oregon, a state with a fantastic program for those without insurance to get birth control for free, as well as a yearly exam. it was fantastic. they even eventually installed an IUD (since the pill makes me wonky), still for free. i love planned parenthood, they are amazing. should pills be OTC? yeah, they probably should be. however, i do have a few reservations, mostly that of drug interactions/health risks for people who are not smart about taking them. and there are a lot of not-so-brilliant people out there. however, you don’t have any age restrictions on buying tylenol either… and you can kill yourself with that a lot easier than the pill, in most cases. i wouldn’t like to make light of anyone’s bad experience, health-wise, about being on the pill – but at the same time, i think it is about time america gets its head out of its ass, and realizes that access to birth control should be a right, not a privilege of those who have money to go to a doctor. i’ve been too poor to go to the doctor for years; thank goodness for planned parenthood!!!

  89. Guest says

    If you deny free access to birth control the status of a human right for the reason that there are documented serious (though rare), you have to deny it to everything that has any documented serious side effects.This isn’t even restricted to human rights that involve the right to recieve some material goods…For example the basic human right of the freedom of belief has documented, very serious side effects, if you look at the more extreme forms of religion, let alone those belief systems widely known as “cults”…And the cost argument simply doesn’t apply on human rights. You can’t deny human rights to anyone because it would be “too exepnsive” not to do so.Enforcing and paying for the enforcement of peoples’ human rights, that’s what states are for. If they fail to do so, they have lost their purpose of existance IMO.

  90. salbro1 says

    Further in the sentence that you’re referring to, I mentioned that “somebody has to pay to develop, manufacture, and distribute” birth control pills, which, if I didn’t may my POV clear, I meant to be more important considerations than any side effects of the pill. I agree with you (and I’ve said elsewhere in this thread) that side effects alone aren’t important enough to deny access to the pill.What I and a couple of others on this thread are trying to point out is that the “human right” to choose whether to get pregnant (which I wholeheartedly support) cannot be confused with the “right” to access a specific consumer product. Access to specific consumer products–that are expensive to develop, manufacture, and distribute–are privileges, although it’s well argued here that there are many good reasons why these privileges should be extended to as many women as possible.

  91. says

    I have yet to hear a reasonable argument explaining how access to material goods is somehow a human right.Also, you should double check your usage of the term ‘cult’. It’s not supposed to have the negative connotation you think it does. Here’s the funny bit: the reason you think it’s a negative term is due to religious propaganda in the 1980’s, isn’t that great?

  92. Valhar2000 says

    BUT the reason planned parenthood requires a doctor appointment is so that you can get an STD test/pap smear before you go spreading your disease (or lack there of) around.That works very well indeed for the women who comply. What about the women who are scared of being found within ten miles of a PP clinic that they would never go there, not for all the birth-control in the world?

  93. Der Cat says

    ….You can have a deadly Allergy to FUCKING PEANUTS. Is any one making this difficult to obtain? What about Milk. That can make people sick. Gluten? Eggs? Wheat? Pork? Beef? (Yes, I know have known people with allergies to all of these)No one has proposed limiting access to these, even though they are far more common and it is far more likely for a person to inadvertiantly consume them and die a horrible death. And don’t get me started on those Goddamn bees. Well…actually…they make honey…but they also kill people…

  94. Der Cat says

    Oh, and I if I eatsugar, often have stomach cramps, vomit, shit horribly, and have other hypo-glycemicrelated issues. There for Sugar, white potatoes, white rice, corn, sweets,regular soda and anything made with sugar and High Fructose corn Syrup shouldnot be over the counter. It can harm people with Diabetes, Pre-Diabetes Hyper-Gecime,and Hypo-glecima. Also it can make you fat and lead to heart attacks, stroke,and other things.


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