Image from NBC News
Many women are familiar with the difficulties of obtaining birth control. Making an appointment, going to the doctor’s office, making sure that your option is covered by insurance, and then going to the pharmacy are some of the many steps involved. Now companies are attempting to make it easier for women seeking birth control to obtain it online. Sometimes the banners appear on Instagram and Facebook. But, is their promise of easily obtained, inexpensive birth control a good idea?
Accessing birth control online could be particularly helpful for people with limited access to physicians either due to geographic or financial concerns. There are 19 million women in the United States who live in a county which lacks a single clinic with a wide range of contraception options. Online birth control services could resolve this geographic access problem. Many of the services also offer a low cost option for those who are uninsured. However, even spending fifteen dollars a month on birth control could be a prohibitive cost to low-income women.
The most effective, long-term, less costly forms of birth control like the IUD and the estrogen implant are not available online. While several of the sites include information about the IUD or implant options, they do not help people gain access to these options.
The potential lack of education when receiving these health services online is an important drawback of these services. Some sites rely on an online questionnaire while others require that the patient speak to a physician over video or telephone. These services generally rely on the patient’s awareness of their own risk factors like high blood pressure or a family history of breast cancer. They also lack the face to face contact which can lead to important health screenings like pap smears.
While accessing birth control online is an important step in reducing the barriers which some women may face to obtaining birth control, it’s not clear that these services can completely replace quality in-person care.