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Womens Health Issues. 2016 Mar-Apr;26(2):147-52. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2015.08.007. Epub 2015 Oct 23.

Perspectives among a Diverse Sample of Women on the Possibility of Obtaining Oral Contraceptives Over the Counter: A Qualitative Study.

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Ibis Reproductive Health, Oakland, California. Electronic address:
Ibis Reproductive Health, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Advocates for Youth, Washington, DC.
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, Brooklyn, New York.
SisterReach, Memphis, Tennessee.
Ibis Reproductive Health, Oakland, California; Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California.



There is increasing support among stakeholders in the United States to make oral contraceptives (OCs) available over the counter (OTC). Previous research on the topic has focused on representative samples of U.S. women, Latina women, low-income women, and abortion clients. However, little is known about the perspectives of African American women, Asian American women, and young women.


We conducted 14 focus group discussions with 138 women. Twenty-three percent of participants were ages 18 or younger, 61% were African American, and 26% were Asian American/Pacific Islander. Community organizations recruited participants through convenience sampling and hosted the discussions. Focus groups were transcribed and coded thematically.


Women reported potential benefits of OTC access, including convenience and privacy. Many believed OTC availability of OCs would help to reduce unintended pregnancy and help to destigmatize birth control. Participants also expressed concerns about OTC access, such as worry that first-time users and young adolescents would not have enough information to use the pill safely and effectively, as well as concerns about whether women would still obtain preventive screenings. Women were also worried that the cost of OTC OCs would be higher if insurance no longer covered them.


Overall, women were interested in the option of obtaining the pill OTC. Future research and advocacy efforts should explore women's concerns, including whether adolescents can effectively use OTC pills and ensuring insurance coverage for OTC contraception.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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