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ACOG reports that birth control should be sold over the counter

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

CBS News reported that a written statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests that women should have over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives.

The committee noted that making birth control more accessible may help lower the unexpected pregnancy rate, which the organization deemed "too high." This could not only reduce the negative side effects associated with unexpected pregnancy, such as depression, domestic violence and substance abuse, but it may also help decrease taxpayer expenses, which were nearly $11 billion last year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned.

"A potential way to improve contraceptive access and use, and possibly decrease the unintended pregnancy rate, is to allow over-the-counter access to [oral contraceptives]," wrote the Committee on Gynecologic Practice in the opinion, as quoted by the new source.

Quelling concerns
According to CBS, the authors of the statement noted that many people may object to the non-prescription plan due to the side effects of contraceptives, such as an increased chance of developing a fatal condition known venous thromboembolism (VTE), in which blood clots form and restrict blood flow to the lungs. ACOG pre-emptively responded to these objections and pointed out that the chance of developing VTE due to birth control is about 3 in 10,000, which is a lower risk than pregnant women have. Also, women can conduct self-screens for these conditions, which are available on a checklist from the World Health Organization.

Another concern that the ACOG recognized was that women who obtained a prescription may be less likely to go to the doctor to receive STD tests. The organization noted that women should still visit the doctor once a year for a physical assessment.

ACOG pointed out that research conducted on Mexican women who either got birth control over the counter or got it with a prescription found that the method of obtaining the contraceptives did not influence the likelihood of the subjects getting Pap tests, STD tests and breast cancer screenings.

A third possible critique for allowing women to obtain birth control over the counter was that women may be less likely to continue taking the pills. ACOG pointed out that studies have revealed that non-prescription access actually increases the chance of adhering to the dosage regimen, and one study found that women who were able to obtain multiple packs of contraceptives were more likely continue taking them.

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