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5 of the Healthiest Over-the-Counter Birth Control Options

Author
Alicia Betz
November 27, 2022

Access to birth control is a highly debated topic, and finding effective birth control is difficult for many people in the United States today. Not all birth control methods need to be approved by your healthcare provider, however, and many healthy and effective methods are available over the counter. 

Five of the healthiest over-the-counter birth control methods are condoms, spermicide, emergency contraception, contraceptive sponge, and fertility tracking. Many people prefer over-the-counter birth control methods as healthy options because most don’t contain hormones, and they’re easy to access for most people. In addition to being hormone-free (with the exception of emergency contraception), all of the birth control methods we discuss here are reversible, which means they don’t permanently affect fertility. 

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Not only are many of these methods highly effective, but some of them can even be used simultaneously to increase efficacy. Learn more about five readily available birth control methods below.  

1. Condoms

Man carry condoms taking in hand condom from jeans

Condoms are one of the most well-known birth control methods. They’re easy to use and are highly effective when used correctly. Condoms work by creating a barrier to stop sperm from getting into the body and meeting with an egg. External condoms are placed on the penis and internal condoms are placed in the vagina. It’s important to note that internal and external condoms should not be used at the same time. Condoms can, however, be used with any other birth control method on our list. Additionally, if you’re using lubricant, only use water-based lubricants with condoms. Oil-based lubricants can make condoms more likely to break. 

Condoms are a healthy and ideal birth control option because they can also help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are widely available in drug stores, grocery stores, and e-commerce stores. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they are 79-87% effective. 

2. Spermicide

Spermicide is often used in conjunction with condoms and other birth control methods. On its own, spermicide is a marginally effective method of birth control. It works by killing sperm before it reaches an egg. Spermicides are available as foams, gels, creams, films, suppositories, or tablets. They are placed in the vagina before sex and should stay in place for at least six hours after sex. Removing the sponge too soon will increase the chances of pregnancy. 

Spermicides can also be purchased at drug stores, large grocery stores, and e-commerce stores. According to the CDC, spermicide is about 79% effective. 

3. Plan B/Emergency Contraception 

Emergency contraception, commonly referred to as Plan B, comes in three different types and each type has a different mechanism of action. Emergency contraception can work by stopping an egg from being released, preventing an egg and sperm from meeting, and/or stopping a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus. It can be taken up to five days after sex, but the sooner you take it, the more effective it is. Contrary to popular belief, emergency contraception does not destroy an embryo, which is a sperm and egg that has already joined, implanted in the uterus, and begun developing. 

Emergency contraception is available in drug stores and some large grocery stores. This is the only birth control method on our list that does contain hormones. Effectiveness can vary widely based on the type of emergency contraception used and when it is taken. 

4. Contraceptive Sponge 

Contraceptive sponges are small devices that contain spermicide. The sponge is placed inside the vagina and over the cervix, and it can work for up to 24 hours. It works by both physically blocking the sperm from passing through the cervix and killing the sperm with spermicide. This type of birth control is more effective for people who have not given birth. It can be less effective for people who have had at least one baby. After people have a baby, their cervix and vagina are usually more stretched out, which can make the sponge slip out of place or not fit as tightly. It’s important to leave the sponge in place for at least six hours after sex. 

Contraceptive sponges can be purchased at drug stores, grocery stores, and e-commerce sites. According to the CDC, contraceptive sponges are about 73% effective for women who have delivered a baby and 86% effective for women who have not delivered a baby. 

5. Fertility Tracking App 

Fertility tracking apps are some of the most available over-the-counter birth control methods because people can set them up right from their phones. However, they require diligence to use and can have a higher failure rate than most other birth control options. Fertility tracking apps help people track their monthly cycle so they can avoid sex during the days they are most fertile. Fertility tracking is a birth control method that can be used along with any of the other methods listed above. 

Fertility tracking apps are available in the app store on your phone or device. According to the CDC, fertility tracking effectiveness can vary from 77-98%. 

Other Forms of Birth Control

Birth Control

Many other forms of birth control are available either by prescription or by having a procedure done in your doctor’s office. While many of these birth control methods are more effective than over-the-counter methods, they also tend to come with more intense and even dangerous side effects. They can also be more difficult for people to access. Some common forms of birth control include the birth control pill, male sterilization (vasectomy), and intrauterine devices (IUD). 

Another form of birth control that was popular for a time was female sterilization, which was sold under the brand name Essure. Bayer, the company that made Essure, stopped producing and selling it in 2018. Many people complained of serious long-term side effects, including depression, weight changes, and autoimmune conditions. People who have received the Essure device have brought legal action against Bayer, claiming that the company didn’t properly warn people of the potential for serious side effects of Essure. If you believe you have been negatively affected by an Essure implant, you may be eligible to join an Essure lawsuit.

Free Case Evaluation

If you or a loved one had Essure IUD removal surgery, we can help you fight for your rights and compensation.

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We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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