How Much Does Birth Control Cost?

Where does this leave women who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover the birth control method that works best for them? If you would like to start using birth control but aren’t sure about the availability of insurance coverage and discount options, you may find yourself asking “how much does birth control cost?”

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If you’ve never had to pay for birth control, you may not have any idea just how costly avoiding pregnancy can be. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), 62 percent of women in the United States use birth control of some type. When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, some birth control became available for free to women with insurance, which continues today. However, an affordability study determined that more than 75 percent of the women currently using birth control would not be able to afford their birth control if the cost exceeded 20 dollars per month, and one out of every seven women taking birth control cannot afford to pay anything for birth control at all. Where does this leave women who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover the birth control method that works best for them? If you would like to start using birth control but aren’t sure about the availability of insurance coverage and discount options, you may find yourself asking “how much does birth control cost?”

Cost of Birth Control with Insurance

If you’re lucky enough to have health insurance or medicaid, you have access to free birth control. The Affordable Care Act mandated that all insurance plans provide at least one free prescription contraceptive option per category, which means that millions of women now receive their birth control prescriptions for free. That's right, no copay or low-cost. Categories include:

  • Barrier methods (diaphragms and sponges)
  • Hormonal methods (birth control pills and vaginal rings)
  • Implanted devices (intrauterine devices, or IUDs)
  • Emergency contraception, such as Plan B
  • Sterilization procedures, such as tubal ligation
  • Patient education and counseling

However, not all insurance plans are created equal, and not all forms of birth control are free under most health insurance plans. At least one option in every category is covered, but it may not be your preferred brand or type of birth control. Condoms and vasectomies are not covered under the Affordable Care Act. Women without health insurance will need to pay for their birth control out of pocket, which can be costly. The following sections examine the cost of different forms of birth control when purchased without insurance. 

Cost of Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills, or oral contraceptives, prevent pregnancy through the use of hormones. Birth control pills are sold in 28-day packages that mimic the 28-day menstrual cycle; the final 7 pills are placebo pills that are taken during your period to maintain the habit of taking your medication. Birth control pills should be taken at the same time each day in order to be most effective. When used properly, birth control pills are about 91 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. Birth control pills are one of the most popular methods for preventing pregnancy because it is typically the most affordable option and there are many different varieties to choose from. However, some women find it inconvenient because the pill must be taken every day, and some cause significant side effects. On average, a birth control prescription costs between 0 and 50 dollars per month out of pocket. However, pharmacy discount card programs like Pharmacists.org offer savings on all FDA-approved birth control pills, regardless of whether they are a generic or brand name medication.  

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Cost of Intrauterine Device (IUD)

An intrauterine device, or IUD, is the longest-lasting form of birth control. IUDs, such as Mirena or Paragard, are inserted into the body by a doctor and can prevent pregnancy for anywhere from 3 to 12 years. There is typically a higher cost up front with IUDs because of the cost associated with the initial doctor’s visit or family planning appoitment, but over time, the cost per year lowers. Depending on which type of IUD you choose (hormonal or copper), the out of pocket cost without insurance could be up to 1,300 dollars. IUDs are 99 percent effective and do not need to be replaced for up to 12 years, although the average duration is 5 years.  

Cost of Birth Control Injections 

Birth control can also be injected in the form of Depo-Provera, sometimes known as the “birth control shot.” Women who prefer not to worry about taking a pill each day but who are not comfortable with the idea of an IUD sometimes choose to get birth control injections instead. The birth control shot is administered on a quarterly basis and can be received at a doctor’s office or administered at home, and it is approximately 94 percent effective. A quarterly injection typically costs up to 150 dollars out of pocket.

Cost of Vaginal Birth Control Ring 

The vaginal birth control ring, sold under the brand name NuvaRing, was first introduced to the market in the early 2000s as an alternative birth control method for women who didn’t want to have to worry about taking a birth control pill each day but also preferred to avoid the regular doctor’s office visits associated with birth control injections. NuvaRing is approximately 91 percent effective and costs up to 200 dollars each month, and it must be purchased with a prescription. Pharmacy discount card programs like Pharmacists.org can be applied toward the cost of NuvaRing birth control, helping to make the vaginal birth control ring a more affordable option. 

Cost of Birth Control Patch 

The birth control patch is placed onto the body each month for three consecutive weeks and then is removed during menstruation.  Each patch lasts for one week, and a monthly supply can cost up to 150 dollars per month; a prescription is required. For women who prefer not to think about taking a birth control pill each day, the birth control patch offers another option. The patch reports a 91 percent effectiveness rate, and pharmacy discount card programs can be used to purchase a monthly supply of the patch.

Cost of Diaphragms

While diaphragms are often thought of as the “female condom,” purchasing one isn’t quite as simple as heading to your local drugstore. Diaphragms are made in different sizes, so you must be fitted for one by a doctor, who will then write you a prescription. A nurse or doctor should also show you how to insert and remove the diaphragm. Diaphragms must be used in conjunction with spermicide in order to work, but spermicide can be purchased over the counter. A diaphragm costs anywhere from 0 to 250 dollars out of pocket, which includes the cost of a fitting and exam. The spermicide that you’ll need costs between 5 and 15 dollars. Diaphragms are not permanent and are inserted before sex and then removed and reused. They are about 88 percent effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly.

Cost of Condoms 

People often forget about condoms in the conversation about birth control, but condoms are an important part of the pregnancy prevention conversation. In addition to preventing unwanted pregnancies, condoms also have the added benefit of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, which cannot be said of the other birth control methods outlined. Condoms are sometimes available for free at local healthcare clinics, but otherwise, they cost about 2.50 dollars per condom. When used correctly, condoms are 85 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. Because condoms do not require a prescription, they can be purchased spontaneously over the counter on an as-needed basis, but are also not eligible for pharmacy discount card programs. 

Summary

Choosing the right type of birth control can be daunting, especially if you can’t afford to spend much on preventing pregnancy. With over 200 varieties of birth control pills alone on the market, making the right choice for your body and your lifestyle is challenging. If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance, you have at least a handful of birth control options available to you for free no matter which type of insurance you have. For those who do not have reproductive health insurance, there are several ways to save money on birth control prescriptions. First, look into joining a pharmacy discount card program like Pharmacists.org in order to receive discounts on all of your prescriptions, including your prescribed birth control. Pharmacy discount card programs are free, require no personal information, and can be used on all FDA-approved medications, regardless of whether they are a brand name or generic versions. There are no eligibility requirements, and everyone in your family can use one card. Another option is to head to your local Planned Parenthood or women’s health clinic to learn more about their available services. Many types of birth control are available free through these clinics for women who meet certain requirements. 

Sources:

https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/the-cost-of-birth-control 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr060.pdf 

https://www.scribd.com/document/342699692/PerryUndem-Gender-and-Birth-Control-Access-Report 

https://www.healthcare.gov/coverage/birth-control-benefits/ 

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-implant-nexplanon 

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-pill 

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-shot 

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-vaginal-ring-nuvaring/how-do-i-get-nuvaring 

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-patch/how-do-i-get-birth-control-patch

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