With supermarkets selling lube, general stores dedicating aisles to vibrators, and fashion retailers advertising arousal oil, it’s natural to wonder when other sexual wellness products will be that readily available.
Welp, you might be surprised to learn that birth control actually is that readily available! Yes, even for people who don’t have access to an OB-GYN!
Here is a guide on how to access birth control from pharmacies, apps, and local health centers. Plus, insights on why you might want to meet with an OB-GYN if the option is available to you.
From pills to patches, sponges to spermicide, and rings to rods, these days there are nearly as many birth control options as there are places to access it. Meaning, many!
The good news: There’s likely a birth control option out there that best fits your accepted risks, accepted side effects, and intention profile.
The bad news: You have to widdle it down from a lot of options.
In the process of getting birth control (more on this below!), you’ll have the opportunity to work with a healthcare professional to figure this out together.
But in the meantime, below are some questions for you to consider. Your answers to these will guide you toward the best birth control method for you:
- What’s the primary reason I’m interested in going on birth control? Pregnancy prevention? Acne treatment? Migraine relief?
- How often am I currently having penis-in-vagina sex? How often do I foresee myself having P-in-V sex in the future?
- Can I realistically use something on a schedule?
- Do I want my birth control to also reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
- Do I want children? If so, when?
- How do I feel about receiving a pelvic exam?
- How do I feel about a doctor implanting the birth control method?
- What level of risk am I willing to accept in terms of overall birth control effectiveness?
- What side effects am I comfortable experiencing?
“Ultimately, the best birth control method for you will depend on a variety of factors including health history, frequency of sex, and likelihood of compliance,” says Dr. Felice Gersh, MD, author of “PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline to Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones, and Happiness.”
To be clear: It absolutely *is* possible to get birth control if you don’t have or don’t want an OB-GYN.
However, the benefit of seeing an OB-GYN in person is that you can get care beyond birth control.
“Most OB-GYNs will also perform an internal exam with your consent, which may allow them to notice things that you wouldn’t even think to mention,” Gersh says.
If you have health insurance, the best place to begin your OB-GYN search is by looking at the healthcare professionals in your network.
Next, check the healthcare professional’s website or call the main office to see whether they offer the things that are important to you. For example:
Another option is to ask around.
“Your friends and family may have an OB-GYN that they like that they can recommend you get in touch with,” Gersh says.
“You might also try asking your family doctor or primary physician about birth control. They have the ability to prescribe birth control, too,” she adds.
Thanks to telehealth, pharmacies, and health apps, “for people who don’t have access to an OB-GYN or healthcare, there are ways for them to receive birth control,” Gersh says. Yay!
Go to the drugstore
There are four over-the-counter, nonprescription birth control methods that you can get almost anywhere you get tampons or other period products:
For these, all you need to do is walk down the aisle, find what you’re looking for, then check out. Easy!
Use a telehealth provider
These days, there are a number of telehealth platforms and apps that allow you to connect with a birth control prescriber from the comfort of your couch.
The rub: These platforms can’t prescribe birth control methods that need to be inserted or implanted, like the implant (aka rod), copper IUD, hormonal IUD, or shot.
Exactly what prescription birth control method these services can prescribe varies provider to provider, but most offer some combination of the below:
Go to a walk-in clinic
This option is best for people who don’t have a primary care physician or OB-GYN but are interested in face-to-face time with a healthcare professional.
Going to a clinic allows you the opportunity to talk with a trained healthcare professional — generally a nurse, technician, or doctor — about what you’re looking for in a birth control method.
This can be extremely beneficial if you’re unsure which birth control method is right for you, says Gersh.
Walk-in clinics that may be able to prescribe birth control include:
External condoms are often widely accessible over the counter at your local pharmacy and online. But over time, the cost can really add up.
Unless you’re in a bind and need a condom right now, you might consider reaching out to one of the community health centers or health departments listed above. Oftentimes, these centers provide free condoms.
These centers are also a great place to access other forms of contraception at no, or a significantly reduced, cost. Our guide to accessing free or lower cost birth control can help you find a location in your area.
If you have health insurance, odds are very high that you’ll be able to get free or lower-cost birth control without an issue.
The Affordable Care Act mandates that most health insurance carriers must cover at least one or more methods of birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Now, some plans will cover specific birth control brands and not others. You can work with your insurance or healthcare professional to figure out which birth control options are covered.
Important: Not all telehealth providers take insurance. Make sure you check out their FAQ page to learn more before making an online appointment.
If you need a refresher, Medicaid is a U.S. healthcare provider that has offered health insurance to lower-income households since 1965.
Long before the ACA, Medicaid offered free birth control to its users — and it still does today.
However, Medicaid doesn’t cover *all* FDA-approved birth control methods.
For more information about what birth control options Medicaid does (or doesn’t) cover, check out the Contraception in Medicaid online guide.
Hands down, nobody provides better birth control support or care than Planned Parenthood.
Up-to-date, queer- and trans-inclusive, and health-informed, Planned Parenthood’s online presence is (almost) as helpful as its in-person care.
Other places to learn more about birth control methods include:
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.