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People can buy over-the-counter birth control without a prescription from drugstores, online retailers, or telehealth companies. Some options protect against STIs, and others can provide 24-hour protection.
This article looks at some over-the-counter (OTC) birth control options, including emergency contraception, barrier methods, and fertility trackers. It also discusses the factors a person should keep in mind when considering OTC birth control and answers some frequently asked questions.
This article talks about perfect and typical use of birth control. Perfect use describes how effective a form of birth control is if everyone uses it exactly as instructed every time they have sex. Typical use describes how effective a form of birth control is if a person sometimes uses it as instructed but may also use it irregularly or imperfectly.
Even with perfect use, contraception is not 100% effective. People should discuss birth control options with a healthcare professional to find the right option for them.
- Best emergency contraceptive: Nurx New Day
- Best for 24-hour protection: Today Sponge
- Best for STI protection: Hims Ultra Thin Condoms
- Best internal condom: Ormelle Female Condom
- Best spermicide: VCF Vaginal Contraceptive Film
- Best latex-free condoms: SKYN Selection Non-Latex Condoms
- Best fertility tracking app: Natural Cycles
OTC birth control describes contraceptives that a person can buy without a prescription. OTC birth control is usually available at drugstores and online retailers, such as Walmart, Walgreens, or CVS Pharmacy.
The majority of OTC birth control options do not affect a person’s hormones and aim to prevent pregnancy by blocking sperm or tracking when a person is likely to be fertile.
OTC birth control may suit individuals who want to avoid pregnancy by using methods that do not require a prescription or visiting a doctor’s office.
People without health insurance may also benefit from OTC birth control.
There are benefits and drawbacks of both OTC and prescription birth control.
OTC birth control may suit those who are looking for a temporary contraceptive method rather than a long-term form of birth control. Additionally, OTC birth control is generally accessible and affordable.
However, some OTC birth control methods can only be used once and may not be the best sustainable or cost-effective option for long-term use.
Prescription birth control methods have very low failure rates for typical use. For instance, intrauterine devices (IUDs) have a typical use failure rate of 0.1% to 0.8%. In contrast, external or male condoms have a typical use failure rate of 13%, and spermicides have a failure rate of 21%, according to the
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.
Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.
Below are seven of the best OTC birth control options that are available online.
Best emergency contraceptive: Nurx New Day
New Day is the generic version of Plan B One-Step emergency contraception. A person can use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy after having sex without birth control or a barrier method.
Nurx New Day contains 1.5 milligrams (mg) of levonorgestrel and is a type of hormonal birth control.
Individuals can take Nurx New Day up to 24 hours after having sex without birth control or a barrier method. That said, Nurx states that this drug may also be effective for up to 72 hours.
- available to people without insurance
- free shipping
- not harmful if a person has become pregnant, according to Nurx
- online reviews raise concerns about shipping and customer service
- not available in all 50 U.S. states
The emergency contraceptive pill is available for $20. A person can choose free shipping or expedited shipping for $15.
Best for 24-hour protection: Today Sponge
Today Sponge manufactures birth control sponges and is the only brand available in the U.S. It is 91% effective in people who have never given birth, according to Planned Parenthood, and 80% effective for those who have, with typical use.
Individuals insert the sponge inside their vagina before having sex and remove it using a small fabric loop attached to the sponge. A person must wait 6 hours before removing it, according to the company.
The sponge works by blocking sperm from entering the cervix. It also contains spermicide, which kills any sperm that comes into contact with the sponge.
The Today Sponge website states that its birth control sponge is currently unavailable. The company has stopped production due to manufacturing issues and COVID-19 restrictions in India. Other stockists, such as Walmart, are also out of stock.
- provides 24-hour protection
- a person can insert it into their vagina up to a day before having sex
- unsuitable for people with a history of toxic shock syndrome
- unsuitable for those with a spermicide or polyurethane foam allergy
- less effective in those who have given birth
- does not protect against STIs or HIV
- can be difficult to remove
A pack of three sponges costs $11.99 on the company’s website or $21.78 at Walmart.
Best for STI protection: Hims Ultra Thin Condoms
Hims, a male health telehealth company, sells Ultra Thin Condoms. These condoms are designed to enhance sensitivity, fit most people, and be compatible with sex toys. According to Hims, the hexagon design provides a good grip on a person’s skin.
Hims also states that these condoms can protect a person against HIV and STIs.
However, they are made from natural latex and will not suit people with a latex allergy.
- offers protection against STIs and HIV
- compatible with most sex toys
- designed to feel unnoticeable
- not suitable for people with a latex allergy
A pack of 12 condoms costs $24.
Best internal condom: Ormelle Female Condom
Ormelle sells its female condoms through online retailers, and they are available without a prescription.
According to the CDC, internal condoms have a failure rate of
- protect against STIs
- effective alternative to external condoms
- can increase sexual pleasure, according to Planned Parenthood
- will not interrupt sex
- may be difficult to use
- can be expensive
- not suitable for people who are uncomfortable touching their vagina
Prices for the Ormelle Female Condom range from $16.95 for six condoms to $99.95 for 50.
Best spermicide: VCF Vaginal Contraceptive Film
Spermicide films are thin sheets that dissolve inside the vagina and form a gel that kills sperm. VCF writes that its spermicide film is hormone-free and contains nonoxynol-9, which is a widely used spermicide.
VCF advises that a person uses the film 15 minutes to 3 hours before sex and places it as close to the cervix as possible. The company also claims that it does not run and stain and is naturally washed away by the body after sex.
A pack of nine films costs $33.10.
Best latex-free condoms: SKYN Selection Non-Latex Condoms
SKYN is a brand that sells latex-free external condoms that are suitable for people with a latex allergy. This product is made with polyisoprene instead of latex.
This pack includes three types of condoms, including:
- 10 Original condoms
- 6 Extra Studded condoms
- 8 Extra Lube condoms
According to SKYN, the Original condoms have a smooth texture and are designed to feel natural. The Extra Studded condoms are made with raised dots to add texture and feature a cooling menthol lubricant. SKYN states that the Extra Lube condoms in this pack are made with 40% more lube than the brand’s Original condoms.
- suitable for people with a latex allergy
- pack includes three types of condoms
- not all condoms have an extra-thin design
- does not include a variety of widths
The SKYN Selection Non-Latex Condoms cost $17.99.
Best fertility tracking app: Natural Cycles
Natural Cycles is a birth control app that has been cleared by the FDA. This is a type of nonhormonal birth control that uses a person’s basal temperature to work out their fertility status. Basal temperature is a person’s body temperature when they are at rest. During ovulation, a person’s basal body temperature may rise, which can indicate that they are fertile.
To use the Natural Cycles app, a person must take their temperature at least five times a week when they wake up and before eating or drinking. They must then enter their temperature into the Natural Cycles app, which uses an algorithm that analyzes a person’s temperature, period, and menstrual cycle data to assess if they are fertile or not on a particular day.
The app will indicate fertile days as red and nonfertile days as green. A person should use barrier methods of birth control on red fertile days.
The company states that people with irregular periods may find they have more red days than other users.
A person cannot use hormonal birth control while using the Natural Cycles app, as many hormonal birth control options stop ovulation from happening.
Natural Cycles states that its birth control app is 98% effective with perfect use and 93% effective with typical use.
- suitable for people who cannot use hormonal birth control
- easy to use
- monthly and annual subscriptions are available
- requires daily temperature readings
- cannot be used with hormonal birth control
- environmental factors may influence a person’s basal body temperature
- a person must buy the Natural Cycles thermometer separately with a monthly subscription
Natural Cycles costs $9.99 monthly or $89.99 annually. The annual subscription includes the Natural Cycles thermometer for free, which costs $14.50 on a monthly plan.
The table below compares the seven products included in this article.
|Price||Type of birth control||When to take or use||STI protection||FDA approved|
|Nurx New Day||$20||emergency contraception||within 72 hours of sex||no||yes|
|Today Sponge||$11.99–21.78||contraceptive sponge||immediately before sex, removal after 6 hours||no||yes|
|Hims Ultra Thin Condoms||$24||external condom||immediately before sex||yes||no|
|Ormelle Female Condom||$16.96–99.95||internal condom||up to 8 hours before sex||yes||no|
|VCF Vaginal Contraceptive Film||$33.10||spermicide||15 minutes to 3 hours before sex||no||no|
|SKYN Selection Non-Latex Condoms||$17.99||external condom||immediately before sex||yes||yes|
|Natural Cycles||$9.99 a month or $89.99 a year||fertility tracking||at least 5 times a week||no||FDA cleared|
Some factors that a person should consider when looking for OTC birth control methods include:
- Price: OTC birth control is generally affordable. However, most OTC birth control options are single-use, which may not make them a cost-effective option if a person intends to use them long-term.
- Hormones: Most OTC birth control does not use hormones, which makes it suitable for people who cannot take or use hormonal birth control. However, the emergency birth control pill does use hormones.
- Allergies: If a person has allergies to certain spermicides, foams, or latex, they may find that some OTC birth control methods are not suitable for them.
- STI and HIV protection: A person should consider their risk of getting or transmitting an STI or HIV. External and internal condoms can protect a person against STIs and HIV. This is because they provide a physical barrier between the penis and vagina. Other methods, such as spermicides and sponges, do not provide this barrier and therefore cannot protect against STIs or HIV. A person should get tested if they think they have an STI or HIV.
- Ease of use: Some OTC birth control methods are easier to use than others. For instance, external condoms are worn over the penis, whereas internal condoms are inserted into the vagina. People who are not comfortable putting their fingers inside their vagina may not find internal birth control methods suitable. People must remember to use fertility trackers consistently to get the best results.
Many companies stock OTC birth control online or in the store. These include:
People can work with a doctor to determine what type of OTC birth control will be best for them. A person can discuss whether hormonal or nonhormonal birth control would suit their needs and lifestyle, as well as the benefits and risks that come with each type of birth control.
If a person thinks they may be pregnant, they can take a pregnancy test at home or at a doctor’s office.
Additionally, if a person has symptoms of an STI or HIV, they should contact a doctor for advice.
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about OTC birth control.
How much does OTC birth control cost?
The cost of OTC birth control will vary on the product. Prices typically range from $10–20, but subscription services may cost more. Many OTC birth control products are single-use, which may make them expensive if used very regularly.
A person can consider how often they will need OTC birth control to help them choose the most cost-effective option for them.
Can I get birth control pills without a prescription?
Planned Parenthood explains that birth control pills are only available with a prescription, and the cost can be up to $50 per pack. Birth control is covered by health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, although some plans may only cover certain brands or generic versions of birth control.
Levonorgestrel morning-after pills do not require a prescription, and they are available for people of any age group.
Can OTC birth control protect you from STIs?
Some barrier methods of OTC birth control, such as external or internal condoms, can protect a person against STIs.
OTC birth control products, such as spermicides, sponges, condoms, or emergency contraceptives, are available without a doctor’s prescription. Some methods can protect a person against STIs and HIV, while others are more effective when used with internal or external condoms. OTC birth control may also be suitable for people who cannot take hormonal birth control, as many options are hormone-free.
People may find OTC birth control affordable and convenient to use, with prices generally ranging from $10–20. However, failure rates with typical use can vary.
A person can consider talking with a doctor to determine which type of OTC birth control is best for them and their lifestyle.