Just about everything can be ordered online now, from chickens to alcohol to dates. One of the most welcome additions to this list is birth control, particularly for the up to 53% of women who live in “contraception deserts” and those of us who can’t be bothered to make a doctor’s appointment even though there’s a drugstore next door. Here’s everything you need to know about ordering birth control online:
It’s safe and convenient. “Telecontraception,” the fancy name coined for apps and websites that offer online birth control services, is used by a growing number of people, with one company even reporting a 100% year-over-year increase in business. The process is similar across platforms: After filling out a questionnaire and receiving a prescription, you can pick up your chosen birth control at your local pharmacy or have it delivered to your door. Some sites require a video or voice consultation before providing a prescription. While some may be uneasy about bypassing a doctor, one study showed that telecontraception services offer better advice than doctors, on average. This is likely due to the invariability of the questionnaires which are not subject to the time constraints and fatigue of doctors.
There are tons of options. There is no shortage of platforms to choose from. Each has its own spin on the premise, whether it’s the speed of delivery, the number of options, or a wider range of healthcare services and prescriptions. Whatever your needs are, there is an option for you. The difficult part is comparing each and deciding which is the best fit for your particular set of circumstances. Because of this, telecontraception may be easiest to navigate if you already know your birth control preferences.
You may need a separate prescription. Some platforms do not offer prescriptions, meaning you will need to go to a doctor before you can order your contraception online. This is the minority, however. Many services do everything virtually, and often have a much quicker turnaround than a doctor’s office. Over time, getting a prescription may be irrelevant as the push for over-the-counter hormonal birth control strengthens.
Location and age constraints. Not all services are available in every state. You’ll need to check each provider to make sure they can serve you based on your area. Comparing the options can be confusing because there are always tradeoffs. For example, Lemonaid is available in all 50 states and offers a broad range of other health services, but you must be at least 18 to use it and you have to pick up prescriptions at a local pharmacy if you’re using health insurance to pay for it. Nurx, on the other hand, is widely cited as one of the best services overall, but is unavailable in 14 states.
Can you order birth control online?
Health insurance doesn’t always cover it. Most health insurers cover the whole cost of birth control, but as with all medical services, coverage varies. You will need to check with your healthcare provider to determine whether you are covered and what the applicable conditions are. For example, some prescriptions must be picked up at a pharmacy instead of being delivered to your door. There can be barriers on the other side, too: Some birth control providers such as Hers and Emme, do not accept insurance. Luckily, even if you have to pay out-of-pocket, most telecontraception services are affordable, with prices starting at around $7 per month’s supply of pills.
Not all forms of birth control are available online. As you probably guessed, you can’t get certain types of contraceptives online, with IUDs (intrauterine devices) being the most significant example. This probably won’t change anytime soon since it’s unlikely many people will be lining up to shove pieces of plastic through their cervixes even if they had the necessary medical training. But it is a notable downside of using telecontraception since IUDs are one of the most effective birth control options. If you’re really into the intersection of DIY and effective contraception, it may interest you to know that the shot is available through some online services. That’s right–not only is it delivered to your door, but you get to stab yourself with it, too.
There are people who shouldn’t choose the online option. Being able to order birth control online is a godsend for a lot of people, but it isn’t for everyone, especially those with certain preexisting conditions. If you are 35 or older, a smoker, have a history of cancer, blood clots, cardiovascular issues, or high blood pressure, you should talk to your OB/GYN instead of going through an online service. Other conditions that preclude telecontraception services are adrenal insufficiency, diabetes, liver and kidney disease, lupus, and visual migraines.
There are options if you don’t want a prescription. Hormonal birth control still requires a prescription, but there are plenty of non-hormonal options that you can pick up at your local drugstore or online. These include condoms, spermicide, and the contraceptive sponge. Check their effectiveness before you skip the hassle of a prescription, though. Non-hormonal birth control is usually less effective.
Which type of birth control is right for you? Things to consider
With so many options on the market, it’s hard to know where to start when choosing birth control. Here are the things you should consider to narrow down your options:
When/if you want to have children. If you want kids in the near future, you’ll probably want to stick to short-term methods of birth control that you can come off of quickly, such as barrier contraceptives (diaphragms, condoms, or even the fertility awareness method, etc). Even hormonal IUDs do not prevent conception immediately after removal because they do not inhibit hormone production. If you don’t want kids, you could opt for the permanent, surgical option.
Whether you’re comfortable using hormonal contraception. Some people use hormone-based birth control their whole adult lives and never have any issues. Others find that it affects their mood or causes physical side effects that aren’t worth the ease or effectiveness of these methods.
Your definition of convenience. Everyone wants the most convenient form of contraception, but people have different ideas of what convenience looks like. For some, remembering to take an oral contraceptive at the same time every day is much easier than having to get an IUD inserted at a doctor’s office. For others, getting a shot every three months is far more convenient than trying to stay on top of a daily pill. As an expert on your own habits and needs, you are in the best position to determine which method is easiest for you.
Your feelings about medical procedures. Several of the most effective options require a visit to the doctor’s office. If you hate needles, pelvic exams, or implants, using a self-administered form of birth control such as the pill, the patch, condoms, or other non-hormonal options is probably better suited to your needs. And with online birth control, you might not even have to see the inside of an office to get your prescription.
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