New Recommendations Say *All* Hormonal Birth Control Should
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently updated its existing recommendations on the availability of OTC contraception.

The fight to make hormonal birth control more widely accessible continues.

In the October edition of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests that all forms of hormonal contraception—including the pill, vaginal ring, contraceptive patch, and depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) injections—are safe enough to access over-the-counter without age restrictions, according to a press release issued by the committee. (IUDs should still be done at your ob-gyn's office; more on that below.) This is an updated, stronger stance than the previous recommendations from 2012, which suggested that only oral contraception should be available over-the-counter. Importantly, though, the ACOG also states in its press release that annual ob-gyn check-ups are still recommended, regardless of access to birth control.

"The need to consistently obtain a prescription, get a refill approval, or schedule an appointment can lead to inconsistent use of a preferred birth control method," Michelle Isley, M.D., M.P.H., who co-authored the ACOG's opinion, said in the press release. By making all forms of hormonal contraception available over-the-counter, women would have access to a variety of options without these common obstacles, she explained.

In the event that all hormonal birth control methods do become available over-the-counter at some point, it should not be at the expense of affordability, added ACOG committee member, Rebecca H. Allen, M.D., M.P.H., in the committee's press release. In other words, the price of these medications should not go up just because they'll be more readily available. "Insurance coverage and other financial support for contraception should still apply," said Dr Allen.

In fact, it is vital that the cost of birth control is addressed when considering these recommendations, Luu Ireland, M.D., M.P.H., FACOG, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology and treasurer of the ACOG's Massachusetts Section, tells Shape. "Currently, hormonal contraception is covered at no cost to the patient under the Affordable Care Act," explains Dr. Ireland. "These cost protections must remain in place. We cannot trade in one barrier (need for prescription) for another (out-of-pocket costs)."

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