#FreeThePill, what does that actually mean?

Visiting Twitter, you might have seen the hashtag #freethepill. You might have jumped to a conclusion, thinking you knew what it meant. I know, some of you are probably thinking it means to make the pill (birth control) free… but not quite.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to an Oral Contraceptives Over the Counter working group meeting with 69 other people. What an experience! So many people in the room talking about what the next steps are for freeing the pill! The OC OTC working group, which was created in 2004, is committed to providing all women of reproductive age easier access to safe, effective, acceptable, and affordable contraceptives.

Let’s start with the basics. What is the pill? The pill is a form of contraception that women take daily. It works to stop the release of a woman’s egg from leaving her ovaries. The pill isn’t just to keep women from getting pregnant; it has other wonderful benefits too. These include; reducing pain and heavy bleeding with periods, preventing acne and anemia, reducing the risk of certain cancers, and much more. Oh, and did I mention that the pill is 99% effective when used exactly as directed?

So now onto the real question: why would we want to move the pill over the counter? A simple answer, it makes women’s lives easier. Think about this: you decide you are going to go on birth control. Great! Now you have to make an appointment to discuss this with your doctor. So you call- spend 20 minutes on hold, book an appointment for a few weeks from now, drive to the appointment, sit in the waiting room for 20 minutes, talk to the doctor for another 20 minutes, then drive to the pharmacy just to wait for the prescription to be filled, then you drive home and possibly sit in traffic. So much time was spent on this process. Not to mention the amount of money you spent on the appointment with the doctor. All so you don’t get pregnant! It was a lot just trying to say all that, never mind actually doing it!

Now that you are on the pill, you have to make sure you are checking in with your doctor, and remember to refill it every month which can be a hassle, and take just as long as when you first thought about getting the pill. So wouldn’t it be easier to just go into the store and pick it up off the shelf without having to worry about it? I certainly think so! Especially for those weekends when you run out and need to get your new pack right away! Also, most insurance plans are required to cover OTC oral contraceptives. By moving the pill over the counter, it would make it easier for women to start using the pill and continue using it longer.

For those of you who are concerned about whether or not it would be safe and effective… worry no more! The potential for abuse is low because you can’t overdose on it, and women can decide if they think they need it, and as long as you take it daily it is effective. Also, the first pill to be made over the counter would most likely be Progestin-only pills, which are the safest form of oral contraceptive.

So are you in? Are you ready to walk into the store and just pick up your birth control off the shelf and leave? If you said yes then the next step is for you to be loud and be proud. Make your voice heard and join us as we try and #freethepill!

For support and additional resources:

Free The Pill

OCs OTC