HealthDay News — The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends allowing over-the-counter (OTC) access to oral contraceptives to improve access to and use of birth control.

“Access and cost issues are common reasons why women either do not use contraception or have gaps in use,” the ACOG’s Committee on Gynecologic Practice wrote in a Committee Opinion published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Approximately 50% of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended, a rate that has remained unchanged for the past 20 years, according to background information in the article.

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However, the majority of women currently not utilizing birth control report that they would be more likely to use oral contraceptives if they were available OTC, results of several surveys indicate.

Based on a review of published literature, the ACOG has issued the following recommendations in favor of OTC access in order to overcome access and cost barriers and reduce unintended pregnancy rates:

Video: Ob/GYNs Back OTC Birth Control Pill

  • Weighing the risks versus the benefits based on currently available data, OCs should be available over-the-counter.
  • Using checklists, women should be encouraged to self-screen for most contraindications to oral contraceptives; studies show that women are more likely to self-report contraindications.
  • Concerns exist regarding OTC provision of oral contraception include payment for pharmacist services, payment for the contraceptives by insurers, and the possibility of pharmacists refusing to provide oral contraception.
  • Cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infection screening are not a medical prerequisite to initiating oral contraceptive use.
Do you agree with ACOG’s recommendation that oral contraceptives be made available over-the-counter?

  • Women who are provided with multiple pill packs at one time have higher continuation rates of oral contraceptives.
  • The ACOG noted that any plans to improve access to oral contraceptives by moving toward OTC access must address cost issues.

    Recently implemented Health and Human Services guidelines require private health insurance to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling for women without cost sharing. However, it “remains to be seen how these guidelines will be implemented,” the ACOG added.


    1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives.” Committee Opinion No. 544. Obstet Gynecol. 2012:120;1527-31.