There are different kinds of over-the-counter birth control measures that one can avail without a doctor’s prescription. Unlike birth control pills, which are given on prescription, condoms, vaginal sponges, etc., are available over-the-counter itself.
In the United States, all birth control pills are available only by prescription, which is why one needs to visit a doctor for obtaining them. This makes it difficult for a person to refill the supply when the former is over, especially when one cannot find the time to fix an appointment with the doctor. At such times over-the-counter birth control options come in handy.
They are called over-the-counter birth control measures because these contraceptives can be purchased by anyone, without a doctor’s prescription at a drug store or supermarket. These contraceptives are barrier methods that prevent the sperm from the male, from reaching the egg in the woman’s body. They are also used to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Over-the-Counter Birth Control Methods
The different types of birth control methods available without a prescription at drug stores or grocery stores are as follows:
Condoms are contraceptives measures that prevent direct contact between the penis and vagina, thereby preventing chances of pregnancy or transmission of STDs. There are two types of condoms:
Male Condoms: A male condom is a thin sheath made of rubber, lambskin or plastic (for those allergic to rubber). It is designed to cover the penis, such that it prevents the semen from entering the vagina of the female during sexual intercourse, thereby preventing pregnancies. Condoms come in different sizes, shapes, styles and features. They also come in lubricated and non-lubricated types. Latex condoms also protect against STDs and HIV. Latex condoms are the best kind of condom, as they provide the best protection. There are also flavored male condoms available for oral sex.
Female Condoms: Another over-the-counter birth control method is the use of female condoms. Female condoms are lubricated sheaths that are inserted into the vaginal canal before sexual intercourse. These female condoms are very effective in preventing transmission of sexually transmitted infections during oral sex, by completely lining the vagina. Female condoms come with rings on either end, one at the closed end which remains inside the vagina and the other open end stays outside the vaginal opening. The only side effects associated with female condoms is its risk of breaking or slipping during sex and its cost, which happens to be more expensive than male condoms.
Male and female condoms should not be used at the same time.
Spermicides are another kind of vaginal barrier option. They are available in the form of creams, foams, films, suppositories and gels. These spermicides have to be inserted deep into the vagina using a small applicator, before sexual intercourse and act as a chemical barrier that kills or paralyzes the sperms coming in contact with the vagina.
Spermicides have the lowest ratings when it comes to birth control effectiveness. Condoms are more effective than spermicides. Spermicides are effective in preventing pregnancies and disease transmission if they are clubbed with another type of birth control method. Soreness and rash formation around the vagina are the side effects of using spermicides.
The vaginal sponge is a plastic foam sponge, containing spermicide that is inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancy. It’s a round, 2 inch sized, soft object with a nylon loop attached to the bottom for removal. The sponge is first wet and then inserted into the vagina, such that it covers the cervix. The nylon loop is used to pull the sponge out after intercourse.
The spermicide in the sponge kills the sperms coming in contact with the vagina. If used correctly this vaginal sponge is an effective means of birth control, however, does not protect a person from transmission of STDs. Some women prefer it more than female condoms because these sponges are set way inside and cannot be seen or felt during intercourse. However, inserting and removing it correctly poses to be a problem for many.
Morning After Pill
While there are no over-the-counter birth control pills being sold without prescription, there is one pill that can be obtained without the doctor’s prescription. The morning-after pill is the only exception, which can be bought by anybody above the age of 18. Girls below the age of 18 need a doctor’s prescription. These pills comprise two pills which are heavy dosage pills with high hormone content to prevent pregnancy that can arise out of the previous night’s unprotected sex.
This is the best over-the-counter birth control option for women who have had unprotected sex or if the condom broke or slipped off during intercourse. However, this pill is not a substitute for birth control pills and doesn’t work like them. Moreover, morning after pill side effects such as bleeding, irregular periods, etc. have to be taken into consideration before taking them.
However, these measures have greater failure rates as compared to prescribed birth control pills. As of today, birth control pills are available only by prescription. The debate to convert prescribed pills into over-the-counter birth control pills is still in full swing. The aim is to allow these pills to be sold freely in drug stores, which will ensure safe and effective contraception and minimize the number of accidental pregnancies.