April 2023

Experiences of progestin-only pill users in the United States and attitudes toward over-the-counter access

Zuniga C, Forsberg H, Grindlay K. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Apr 2022. DOI: 10.1363/psrh.12223

Removing the prescription requirement and making oral contraceptive pills available over the counter (OTC) could increase contraceptive access in the United States. Despite current efforts to make a progestin-only pill (POP) available OTC, there are no qualitative data exploring the experiences of POP users and their perspectives on making POPs available OTC.

We conducted six online, asynchronous focus group discussions with 36 POP users between July and November 2020. We stratified focus group discussion placement based on three reasons for POP use: breastfeeding, having a contraindication to estrogen (for a reason other than breastfeeding), and for any other reason. We thematically analyzed these data using inductive and deductive coding.

The majority of participants described their overall POP experience as positive, mostly because they experienced minor or no side effects and thought the pill was effective. Participants overwhelmingly supported OTC availability of POPs and expressed interest in purchasing an OTC POP. Over one-third of participants had very limited knowledge or held inaccurate assumptions about POPs before they started using this method and many stressed the need to disseminate accurate information and resources about POPs to the public.

Most focus group discussion participants were satisfied with POPs and supported OTC access. While misconceptions and concerns about POPs should be addressed, an OTC POP has the potential to be a safe, effective, and convenient contraceptive option in the United States.