Make Pills OTC to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy Rate

March 7, 2015

New research highlights a way to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies, but it requires two changes to current policy.

A recent study in Contraception has revealed a way to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies by up to 25%, a significant percentage considering that half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. The catch, however, is that the solution is hypothetical. It would require birth control pills to be available without a prescription and be covered by insurance.

The study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the nonprofit Ibis Reproductive Health, found that if women were able to buy the pill as an OTC medication and have it covered by their insurance, there would be an 11% to 21% rise in the number of women using birth control pills. Subsequently, the US rate of unintended pregnancies would fall 7% to 25%, the researchers reported.

Dan Grossman, one of the study authors, argues that many women, especially low-income women, using less effective contraceptive methods than the pill, such as condoms or nothing, would switch over. The logic is that the doctor visit itself for the prescription remains a barrier, even though coverage of most forms of birth control is mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

However, for some women, the pill might be contraindicated. ACOG supports OTC oral contraception, suggesting that women should self-screen for contraindications.

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