March 2016

Prescription birth control access among US women at risk of unintended pregnancy

Grindlay K, Grossman D. Prescription birth control access among US women at risk of unintended pregnancy. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016 Mar;25(3):249-54

Background: Access to contraception is a vital component of preventing unintended pregnancies. This study was conducted to assess the prevalence of and factors associated with U.S. women's difficulty accessing prescription contraception (pill, patch, or ring).

Materials and Methods: We performed a nationally representative survey of adult women at risk of unintended pregnancy (aged 18-44, not pregnant or seeking pregnancy, sexually active, not sterilized) using a probability-based web panel. In November to December 2011, 2046 women completed the survey. Weighted proportions were calculated and logistic regression was used to identify covariates associated with difficulty obtaining or refilling prescription contraception.

Results: A total of 1385 (68%) women had ever tried to get a prescription for hormonal contraception. Among this population, 29% reported ever having problems obtaining a prescription or refills. In multivariable regression, uninsured (vs. privately insured) and Spanish-speaking (vs. English-speaking) women were significantly more likely to report difficulties; women with a high school degree and those with some college (vs. a college degree or higher) were significantly less likely to report difficulty. Difficulties included cost barriers or lack of insurance (14%), challenges obtaining an appointment or getting to a clinic (13%), the clinician requiring a clinic visit, exam, or Pap smear (13%), not having a regular doctor/clinic (10%), difficulty accessing a pharmacy (4%), and other reasons (4%).

Conclusions: One-third of adult US women who have ever tried to obtain prescription contraception reported access barriers. While the Affordable Care Act may resolve some of these issues, these data indicate that additional factors may still need to be addressed.