For thousands of years, women tried different methods of pregnancy prevention — a Greek gynecologist once suggested women hold their breath during intercourse, while in ancient Egypt, women inserted a paste into their vagina made of honey, sodium carbonate, and crocodile dung. Yikes.
More than 100 million women around the world use some form of contraception, be it the NuvaRing, patch, or IUD. But since The Pill was finally approved by the FDA in 1960 (albeit only for married couples until 1972), it’s become the preferred birth control method of 25% of the population of female American contraceptive users.
Still, getting access to The Pill comes with a long, sordid history of blockades, from politicians attempting to limit access to “conscience clauses” at drugstore chains, which allow pharmacists to refuse a woman looking to purchase birth control. The American Civil Liberties Union even has a section on its site dedicated to the latter, saying that “a pharmacy’s or pharmacist’s refusal to sell birth control does not violate a woman’s federal constitutional rights… a woman has no federal constitutional right to receive contraception. Although the Constitution protects a woman’s right to contraception, it does not ensure that women can access reproductive health services.”
Luckily, there are various apps and services women can use to access contraception, whether they’re being plagued by insurance problems, unhelpful pharmacists, or just have limited time to make a trip to a doctor’s office. See which one might work for you.
The 411: Available only in California and New York, users can select a preferred birth control method, take a survey, and send in identification that’s reviewed by a team of doctors who can prescribe you oral contraceptives, and, in California, Truvada for PrEP (which can help protect against HIV infection). Users can even get Plan B overnight. Drugs are delivered shortly after by USPS — or by a bike courier if you’re in San Francisco. For insured users, the service is typically free, and for those sans insurance, medication starts at $15. The company tries to send three months of medication at a time, insurance coverage permitting.
Service: PRJKT RUBY
The 411: For $20 a month, users can access oral contraception or emergency contraception. A questionnaire and medical assessment helps the site and its team of physicians review your selected birth control. Meds are delivered for free as soon as a doc signs off on your order. You can even set up an auto-refill, and for every monthly order placed, a 25 cent donation is made to help women in the developing world access contraception via Population Services International (PSI), a tax-exempt, nonprofit global health organization.
The 411: Women 18 and older can select their choice of pill (or take the site’s recommendations if they’re unsure), answer health questions, and upload a photo before a doctor reviews your order and it’s sent to the pharmacy of your choice. Pills start at $9 with a $15 charge from Lemonaid due before the doctor review. Note that women 35 and up are limited to progestin-only pills. Bonus: You can also get medication for UTIs, acid reflux, acne, the flu, and sinus infections through the service. Available in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington
The 411: Available only for women 18-34, the service charges $45 per visit for 24/7 service from nurse practitioners. The NPs create a custom birth control selection that’s sent to a pharmacy. Available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia
The 411: Appointments are free for first-time users, who get a 10-minute video chat with nurse practitioners or doctors, which typically cost $18 or $35, respectively. You can even text with medical providers to get a birth control prescription right away. For every appointment purchased on Maven, the Maven Foundation donates $1 towards care for women in need. Available in most states.
Service: Planned Parenthood
The 411: The classic women’s reproductive services organization offers online prescriptions for women in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, or Washington State. A basic info survey is followed by a video appointment and a prescription. Depending on the method, PP mails prescriptions to users in “discreet packaging.” Those in California can get a prescription for up to 12 months of pills.