The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently recommended that oral contraceptives be sold over the counter in drugstores, without the need for a doctor’s prescription. The group’s recommendation will be published in the December 2012 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
No oral contraceptives are currently over the counter in the U.S. ACOG cites cost, access, and convenience as factors in why women don’t use contraception. The group believes that easier access to birth control will help lower the unintended pregnancy rate in the U.S., which they estimate costs taxpayers $11 billion annually.
Though ACOG states that no drug is risk-free, it also states that the overall consensus is that oral contraceptives are safe. The group points to aspirin and acetaminophen as medications available over the counter that also have health risks. ACOG admits that while there is an “extremely low” risk of blood clots with oral contraceptive use, the risk is significantly lower than the risk of blood clots during pregnancy or after giving birth.
ACOG cited studies showing that women are able to self-screen for health risk using check lists before using oral contraceptives, and that women continue seeing their doctor for preventive services when allowed access to over the counter oral contraceptives as grounds for their recommendation. The group also pointed to a study that shows women who receive more than one month’s worth of oral contraceptives at a time have higher continuation rates for birth control.
The new recommendation is one of several that will be published in the upcoming Obstetrics & Gynecology. Other recommendations include the optimal timing of umbilical cord clamping after a birth (30 to 60 seconds), and health care services offered to women in the military.