The Birth Control Pill Should NOT Be OTC -- 5 Reasons Why


birth control pillsA movement have been under way for years to make the birth control pill available over the counter, and efforts have recently picked up steam. Bloggers for women sites everywhere are cheering this initiative, jumping up and down with joy. About 70 percent of all women want this. A birth control pill without a prescription! Women no longer being held hostage to a paternalistic medical establishment!

I'm not jumping on that bandwagon. As with anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Health care reform will likely change things, but under the current system, I think making oral contraceptives available without a doctor's script is a really bad idea.

The pill being promoted by groups such as the Oral Contraceptive Over-the-Counter Working Group is the "mini-pill" or a progestin-only pill, the same drug used in emergency contraception.

Why does something as simple as the pill require a prescription in the first place? Because it's considered a chronic medication, something you take for a long time or indefinitely, and the Food and Drug Administration feels medications in this category should be closely monitored by a doctor. Drugs are drugs. They are not natural to your body, and often carry side effects. Even though lots of people take acetaminophen every day, studies show it is only safe when used for its approved short-term use.

Without the estrogen in the mini-pill, a lot of the side effects of the pill disappear, and the FDA said it would not be opposed to the idea of a non-prescription version.

I don't use the pill now, but I have in the past, and can come up with 5 good reasons why the birth control pill should remain a prescription drug that you can only get through your doctor.

1. Women will never go to the doctor for regular exams. Currently about 90 percent of all women say they get regular pap smears every 1-3 years as is recommended, and many of them only do this because they want their pills. Take that incentive away, and watch that number plummet, and the number of cervical cancer cases skyrocket.

2. It will be too expensive. Most insurance covers contraception, and since there are lots of choices, the co-pay tiers are currently quite affordable. The cost of medication often skyrockets when it moves from prescription to OTC.

3. It may not work. Most prescription birth control pills are a combination of synthetic estrogen and progesterone. The OTC would contain only progestin to lessen some of the side effects, but that means they are slightly less effective than hormonal pills.

4. Women should develop a relationship with their doctor. And if that pill does fail and a woman gets pregnant? If they have a doctor they see regularly, they have someone to turn to for advice. If they are self-medicators, who will help them through those tough decisions and offer referrals? Doctors are not the bad guys. I have several that are close friends. They care for their patients and truly want to guide and help them through their health decisions. Getting pregnant when you don't want to be is a scary thing. Strong doctor patient relationships are important in times like these.

5. It's easy to get anyway. I don't know of one person, young or old, insurance or no, who wasn't able to get a prescription for pills if they wanted one, so what's the big deal? Family planning clinics dish these things out like candy. All you have to do is show up and ask.


Image via nateOne/Flickr

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RanaA... RanaAurora

Five reasons it should be:

1.  Lots of people can't afford to go to the doctor for annual check-ups.  For example, my sister's insurance only covers a PAP if they find something wrong.

2.  Birth control in addition to a condom (or in lieu of if people forget in the heat of the moment) helps prevent even more unwanted pregnancies than condoms alone.

3.  Lots of stores offer $4 or low-cost versions of generic medications, though with a prescription, but could be used to cover OTC stuff as well.

4.  The most commonly stolen items from grocery stores are condoms and pregnancy tests.  While the most expensive brands are put behind the pharmacy counter so you have to ask, cheaper versions are usually left on the shelf because people would still prefer those who would otherwise not use anything to steal some cheap kind and USE it rather than go without.  (I guess these people don't know about free condoms at doctor's offices and whatnot?)

5.  Um... okay, so I thought of four.


Now... I actually do agree with you that it has too much of an effect on the body to be given without a doctor's advice and whatnot.  I just figured I'd play devil's advocate. ;)

Nakas... Nakashama

I agree with Rana.  If pain meds can be OTC, if allergy meds can be OTC, if cold meds can be OTC, then I darn well think that the birth control america has used for 40 or 50 yrs is ready to be OTC.

Women need an option that works for them.  And many women need to regulate their periods with these.  It's just a big waste of everyone's money making folks have to call doctors to get approvals to have something.  And I guarantee, demand will increase if it goes OTC, so cost for everyone decreases over time.  Remember, even if you have insurance, you are paying for insurance, and the only way we can get insurance cost to decrease is to decrease cost of care and meds.  In short, you've probably paid extra on your insurance so you could have that med.  And everyone without insurance couldn't afford it.  Now they'll have a better chance of getting it.

Also women too nervous to go to a dr shouldn't be excluded from getting the med.  It is horrible to force women to have pap smears to prove they deserve a birth control. It kept me from using birth control for a long time.  It's just not fair.  Folks don't have to prove they have headaches to have pain meds. Nor do they have to even prove they have allergies.

Could you imagine if everyone had to have allergy tests to get flonaise or claritin?


Lynette Lynette

They should not be OTC but in my mind it's not for the reasons you posted.  I feel it's more because of possible side effects(like mood swings).  You would also have more girls choosing to do the pill only instead of condoms.  Upping STDs.  You also have these young girls taking it who need to be instructed on how to take the pill for it to be most effective.  And then you also have the fact that different women need different pills.  The help of a doctor to find the right one for you is very important.  All this comming from a woman who isn't big on docs for everyday things(shoot I had a homebirth w/ a CPM).  So yeah

nonmember avatar jacobcollin

Health care (transformation) is one of the best issues this current administration has done thus far. With this change individuals will have the opportunity to seek professional and quality health care services. Who would want to return to the days of the horse and buggy, b/w tv sets, manual typewriters, pac man, you get the point? That's about how old the health care system was in the USA. Each day the news is filled with social tragedies in which lives are taken at the hands of known acquaintences and/or family members. Our society is stricken with the institutions of white collar crime permeating throughout this great nation and greed which tends to strike at the very fabric of our country.  If you are looking for affordable health insurance check out I hope everyone will soon recognize and use the resources made by this transformation to seek professional medical attention as the need arises rather than turning to illegal and criminal activities to resolve their issues.

babonwy babonwy

I have been refused BC because I refused a Pap...
I shouldn't have to be violated (that IS how I feel) to get BC.

I should have the right to control my Sexual Health without the Doctors "holding my hand".

Not everyone Shares the author's view on Doctors...

RanaA... RanaAurora

I totally agree with you Lynette.

clean... cleanaturalady

I have not made up my mind as to which side of this issue I fall.


A regular check with your doctor for birth control is a must in my opinion. For these reasons:

1) it affords the doctor a chance to check that the pill is not have a negative effect on your health, one which you may not be aware of;

2) it allows the doctor to discuss pap smears which even if we dont like them, are a good thing as they can save your life; and

3) if you have a good doctor, they can discuss family planning with you. Not only how to not get pregnant if you do not want a baby, but also to understand about your own fertility, how it changes with age (which is faster than we realise) and to allow us to make INFORMED decisions about our lives. You dont know what you dont know.

I see no benefit to living in ignorance and not doing the prevention controls which we need. Prevention is better than cure. The downside is the cost of healthcare, and that you may not be able to afford it, but that is a different issue - that is a political one as to what you should get covered by the State or not, what should be covered by your insurance or not etc. 

nonmember avatar Leah

Forcing an unnecessary exam to get BC is ILLEGAL. The Patient Bill of RIghts states that a patient must give INFORMED CONSENT for any test or procedure. When a pap test is explained the patient has every right to refuse. Apparently Cynthia Dermody does not believe that patients should have these rights. Apparenty Cynthia thinks that women should be forced into invasive testing "for their own good." After all, we women are just silly, little air-headed nitwits who need the medical establishment to tell us what to do and when to do it. In fact, the number one killer of women is heart disease. Not breast cancer and not cervical cancer. Thanks to policies like the one Cynthia advocates, doctors treat women as if we were all ticking time-bombs...ready to explode with cancer. Unless of course, we're regularly poked and prodded by doctors. Who can then (of course) bill our insurance companies for it. Birth Control Pills WILL be OTC. Other countries have already done it. The time has come and it is long overdue.

tonya... tonyalynn

you should have to get them from your obgyn

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