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Over-the-Counter Birth Control for Teens

There is growing support for moving oral contraceptives (OCs) to over-the-counter (OTC) status. Doing so could remove barriers and increase access to contraceptives. The national conversation on this topic often focuses on adult women only; the Center has focused on this issues as it relates to teens.

The Center performed a study on teens’ interest in and likelihood to use OTC OCs as well as their ability to understand a product label. In 2014, a sample of 348 females aged 14-17, recruited via Facebook advertisements, participated in an online survey assessing teenagers' attitudes toward over-the-counter access and their understanding of how to use oral contraceptives after reading a prototype over-the-counter product label. This work was published in Perspectives in Reproductive and Sexual Health:
Manski R, Kottke M. A Survey of Teenagers’ Attitudes Toward Moving Oral Contraceptives Over the Counter. Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2015 Sep;47(3):123-9. doi: 10.1363/47e3215. Epub 2015 Jun 22. PMID: 26098283

In 2017, the Journal of Adolescent Health published a review on the safety and efficacy of over-the-counter access to OCPs. The review included the ability of adolescents to use OCs consistently and correctly, the potential effect on sexual risk behaviors, and the potential for reduced opportunities for clinicians to counsel and provide recommended reproductive health care to adolescents. The review found strong scientific rational for including adolescents in any regulatory change to switch OCs to OTC status:
Upadhya KK, Santelli JS, Raine-Bennett TR, Kottke MJ, Grossman D. Over-the-Counter Access to Oral Contraceptives for Adolescents. J Adolesc Health. 2017 Mar 6. pii: S1054-139X(17)30023-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.12.024. [Epub ahead of print] Review. PMID: 28314704

The Center will continue to work with stakeholders at all levels to support teens having access to OTC OCs. Work-to-date includes: