By Bonnie Rochman Tuesday, March 1, 2011
American women spend about five years either pregnant, trying to get pregnant or postpartum; contrast that with the three decades they spend trying to consciously avoid having a baby.
That data, from the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank, points up the need for good birth-control options — and lots of them. As it turns out, birth control has been in the news a lot lately. Planned Parenthood, which supplies contraception for low-income women across the country, is in danger of losing its funding. A new study from the University of California, San Francisco, found that hooking women up with a year’s supply of birth-control pills slashes the rates of abortions and unintended pregnancies. And now, research from the University of Texas at Austin (UT) suggests that another way of ensuring women take their pills is by making oral contraceptives available over the counter (OTC).
Together, these latest developments suggest that the U.S. might want to take a hard look at how women in this country can best protect themselves from unintended pregnancies. (More on Time.com: Saving Maternal Lives — With a Magic Marker)
The caveat: should the Pill be available without a prescription, women need to make sure they’re choosing the most appropriate pill for their particular needs.
Taking advantage of a “natural experiment” along the U.S.–Mexico border, UT researchers found that U.S. women who crossed into Mexico to buy OTC birth control pills are more likely to stay on the Pill longer than women who get pills by prescription at U.S. clinics, according to research published online last week in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
For nine months, they followed more than 1,000 mostly low-income, uninsured oral-contraceptive users from El Paso, Texas — half traveled to Juarez, Mexico, where they purchased pills OTC; the other half got them at family planning clinics in El Paso.