The teenage years can be physically and emotionally mystifying. Bodies and voices change incongruently as you straddle the divide between childhood and adulthood.
Birth control may be on your radar for more reasons than preventing pregnancy. For example, some forms can reduce menstrual cramps and help control acne outbreaks. Whatever the reason you want to use birth control, can you get it without your parents?
Although it’s best to discuss birth control with a parent, that doesn’t always happen. You may be ready to tumble headlong into adulthood, but your parents might want to enjoy your childhood a little longer. Some parents embrace the use of birth control while others tell their kids they’re not mature enough to need it.
The good news is there is no age or parental consent requirement to purchase condoms. And in most states, minors can access prescription birth control without parental consent. If you’re a minor searching for birth control, here’s how you might access it.
Find a Healthcare Professional to Write the Prescription
Most birth control methods require a prescription from a physician or other healthcare provider allowed by law to write one. But you don’t necessarily have to make a trip to the doctor’s office to access birth control.
Depending on your age, an online birth control provider can prescribe various methods following a virtual consultation. It’s easy, convenient, and fast. Your prescription will be delivered to you discreetly and you can contact the provider any time.
You can also visit a Planned Parenthood or Title X Clinic in your community to get a prescription. Some states even allow pharmacists to write a prescription. State laws dictate whether a minor needs parental consent to get a prescription for contraception. Any provider, even those online, must comply with the laws of their patient’s state of residence.
The prescription will need to be specific, so talk to the provider about your birth control options. The pill is the most popular, but there’s also the patch, ring, shot, and more. Some use hormones while others don’t. Some are long-term solutions and others require a daily dose or must be used within a certain period prior to sex. You will have a lot of options to weigh, and your healthcare provider can help.
Play the Numbers
Birth control is a bit of a numbers game. From the age you must be to access it to how much it costs, you’ll have to do the math.
The best place to start is to find out what your state’s laws are, beginning with the age of majority. In all but three states, you reach the age of majority on your 18th birthday. However, in Nebraska and Alabama you’re a minor until your 19th birthday and in Mississippi, until your 21st.
State laws and the age of consent for contraception are all over the board. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia allow all minors to access contraception without parental consent. Nineteen allow some to access without consent, and the rest have no specific laws addressing parental consent.
Then there’s the cost of paying for birth control. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance fully covers the cost of many options. There are also some highly affordable options or low-cost rates at clinics for those paying out of pocket.
Just remember that if you are covered by a parent’s health insurance plan, not all information is confidential. If you use it to pay for contraception, your parents will receive a notice via an Explanation of Benefits. They won’t be privy to your medical record, but they will know the name of the provider and the cost.
If your parent is on board with birth control, none of the numbers is an issue. If they’re not, you should know the legal constraints every healthcare provider is subject to. And be aware of any information your parents will receive if that will be problematic.
Go Over the Counter
There are some forms of birth control that do not require a prescription. You can purchase them over the counter at most pharmacies. Just be advised that all birth control methods are not created equal.
OTC options include male and female condoms, vaginal sponges, and spermicides. If you had unprotected sex, minors can buy emergency contraception over the counter. However, the morning-after pill should not be used for routine birth control.
Be aware that efficacy rates vary among contraception methods. Nine women out of 100 may get pregnant using the pill. But 28 out of 100 may get pregnant using a spermicide. Male condoms are the most effective over-the-counter option with an 18% pregnancy rate. Female condoms are slightly riskier at 21%. However, both, unlike any other form of contraception, may help protect you against sexually transmitted diseases.
For example, using a male condom and a spermicide or a sponge will provide more protection from pregnancy. Any form of birth control used incorrectly won’t be effective, nor will a faulty product like a broken condom.
Whatever form of contraception you use, remember to check its expiration date. Using something beyond its shelf life might be the same as using nothing at all.
Cross the Divide
Using birth control, whether to prevent a pregnancy or to clear up your acne, is a huge step toward adulting. Accessing it on your own will probably be the first major independent decision you make in life. And it’s an important one.
If you can talk to your parents about birth control, it’s a good idea to have the conversation. If you can’t, you should talk to a healthcare provider. It’s wise to get the information you need to make the decision that’s best for you.
Accessing birth control in your teenage years may not present a huge challenge. But it will be up to you to shoulder the responsibility of using it and using it correctly. And that’s a pretty big step to take across the childhood to adulthood divide.