Study looks at birth control use

Donovan Sanders

Women are more likely to take birth control for longer periods of time if they have the ability to get their medication over the counter in Mexico, according to a UT study.

Sociology professor Joseph Potter led a study about predominantly uninsured women who had the option to purchase oral contraceptives either in Juarez, Mexico or El Paso. According to the study, women who bought the pills in Mexico are more likely to remain on the medication but also put less thought into what kind might be safest for them.

“Our main motivation was to see what would happen if the pill were made over-the-counter in the United States,” Potter said.
Kristine Hopkins, a research assistant, professor in sociology and co-researcher in the study, said making the pill available over-the-counter in the U.S. could expand options and reduce potential barriers for women in the U.S.

High costs and prescriptions both make it harder for women in the U.S. to obtain oral contraceptives, Hopkins said. Costs in the United States are higher than in Mexico.

“Many of the same pills are available in Mexico that are at the clinics in El Paso,” Hopkins said.

She said there are some health risks to taking oral contraceptives, which may be why they are not readily available in the United States.

Another barrier facing women in the United States is getting a prescription. This takes time and costs more money than simply buying them over-the-counter as people did in Mexico.

Oral contraceptives pose some health risks, including blood clots, nausea and mood changes, which is why women should still see their doctor regularly while taking the pill, Hopkins said.

“I don’t think the pill should be made accessible over-the-counter because of the safety and concerns that go along with taking the pill. There are instances where the pill is not the best option, and women need to consult their doctors in order to figure that out,” Hopkins said.

Accessibility is the overall issue with differences in prescription and over-the-counter birth control.

“It’s important for women to see their gynecologist regularly, whether they take oral contraceptives or not but definitely if they do,” said clinical associate pharmacy professor Renee Acosta.