What California Teens Need to Know About Pharmacy Access to Birth Control

ProviderGuess what California! Having safe sex is about to get a whole lot easier for you in the next few months! We think that increasing access to highly effective forms of birth control is the best way to help prevent unplanned pregnancies and the lawmakers in California agree! A law was passed that is getting ready to rock how you get your birth control in a big way. Starting towards the end of 2015, your local pharmacist can start providing you with more effective forms of birth control in the pharmacy (the pill, the patch, the ring, and the shot)!

This means that you would be able to get your birth control without worrying about making a doctor’s appointment or clinic visit. (Side note: Getting checked out by a doctor regularly is really important! ESPECIALLY, if you are sexually active. It just shouldn’t prevent you from getting effective birth control!) Now if you need birth control you are going to have choices – the doctor’s office, your local family planning clinic, or your local pharmacy!

Who can get birth control at the pharmacy?

First of all, all you ladies out there can use it! Women of all ages — including teens — will be able to use this service. You also don’t need to have insurance or an ID card to get birth control. In California, minors can consent to medical care for the prevention or treatment of pregnancy without parental permission. In fact, legally the pharmacist cannot disclose any information to your parents without your written permission. Of course we know that your parents had sex at least once (hey, you’re here right?) so they probably know a thing or two about sex and birth control. So if you feel comfortable you can always chat with them about any questions you might have and they are welcome to come along to the pharmacy. We know teens like their privacy too; so just know if you don’t want to tell them, we won’t either!

How does pharmacy access to birth control work?

So here’s how it works. It is kind of like when you go get a flu shot from the pharmacist (if you don’t do that you totally should!). You fill out a health screening questionnaire and get your blood pressure taken to make sure that it is safe for the pharmacist to give you birth control and that’s it! The pharmacist will review your questionnaire and talk you about which methods of birth control would be safe for you to use. Then you can discuss how each method works and pick which you like best. The pharmacist will then provide you with birth control supplies just like you would get with a doctor’s prescription and you are good to go.

Keep in mind that not all pharmacies will be providing this service right away. It’s always a good idea to give the pharmacy a quick call to find out if they do before you go in.

How much will this cost me?

There will probably be a small service fee for the screening. This is different than the cost of the medication. If you do have insurance, you will most likely be able to get your prescription filled with no copay. (Thanks Obama!) If you are under your parents insurance, the insurance company might send your parents documents about what you got from the pharmacy. If this is something that you want to keep private, consider filling out a “confidential communication request” for your insurance company. See www.myhealthmyinfo.org for more information and a copy of the form.

What if I don’t live in California?

Basically, this new law is very exciting in the word of birth control. Hopefully once the other states see how much it has helped in California they will follow suit! So if you don’t live in California keep your eyes out changes to come!

What are some trusted sources for more info about birth control methods?

If this gets you excited about birth control, check out these helpful links to help you learn about different methods! These are really cool resources for teens and they break down all the pros and cons of each method. Bedsider includes videos from guys and girls talking about the experiences they’ve had with each method. On their website you can also sign up for text reminders for clinic appointments or to remind you to take your birth control pills, patch, ring, or shot. Planned Parenthood has an interactive quiz to let you know which methods might work best for you. They’ve even got info just for teens.

How can I get my questions answered?

Check out our new resource page just for teens!  If you have any other questions about your sexual health or anything pharmacy related you can submit your question anonymously. Your question will be answered by Dr. Sally Rafie, PharmD, who is a pharmacist and is very passionate about sexual health and how pharmacists can help!


Courtney HeadshotAbout the Author: Courtney Miller just finished her first year of pharmacy school at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. She is from the central valley which has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in California so this topic is very close to her heart!

Talking to Your Partner about Your Plans

When it comes to choosing the right birth control, it’s a decision that shouldn’t be left to just one partner in a relationship. Although many men might view the subject of contraception as a foreign matter, it is important that they too are educated and engaged on the options available to them and their partner.

Having this conversation BEFORE you and your partner start having sex is ideal. Not only can this discussion strengthen your relationship by opening lines of communication that might have not previously existed but it also helps build a sense of trust, allowing you to be more intimate with your partner. By sharing the responsibility of planning for safe sex, you and your partner would be setting your minds at ease over the thought of having an unplanned pregnancy or possibly getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Talking to Your Partner about Birth Control

So how do you even begin having this conversation with your partner? Here are some quick tips to help you get started.

Plan ahead.  Don’t wait to have this conversation at the last minute…in the heat of passion. Start the conversation outside the bedroom and choose a time that is good for both you and your partner. If you have trouble finding the perfect time to bring up the issue, maybe consider talking about a TV show, movie, or pop culture event as a conversation starter and then transition into the subject.

Stay calm. It’s natural to be a little nervous when discussing the subject with your partner, especially if it’s the first time you’re bringing it up. But remember the importance of this discussion. You might even feel better about your relationship, knowing that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to your plans and birth control.

Educate yourself.  Before you start the conversation, read up on the birth control options that are out there and that may interest you. Or better yet, include your partner in this process. Ask them to accompany you to the doctor’s office, clinic or pharmacy so both of you can learn about birth control together and have your questions answered at the same time.

Rehearse.  Practice what you’re going to say in front of a mirror or with a close friend who can give you personal advice. Rehearsing beforehand allows you to go through the points you want to get across in preparation for the actual talk.

Be honest. Express your true feelings and be clear with your thoughts. If you are going to have this conversation, you might as well get all your worries or concerns off your chest. If you don’t feel comfortable expressing your opinions with your partner, that may be a sign that you’re not ready to become intimate physically either.

Listen.  After you had the chance to discuss your thoughts, allow your partner the opportunity to respond and express how they feel. Respect what they have to say and be open to their point of view.

Continue the conversation. Once you have discussed your plans and birth control with your partner once, that doesn’t mean it will be the last time. Be open to future discussions as your relationship evolves. Over time, you and your partner may desire different things out of your relationship so your method of birth control may also change.

For prompts that you could use to help you get the conversation started regarding birth control, pregnancies, or even STDs, check out the Get Talking interactive conversation starter.  The BeforePlay.org website has a lot of great information, memes, and videos about family planning and sexual health.


About the Author: Kevin Vu is a third-year pharmacy student at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.

References: Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) website.UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services website. (Photo credit: adulau via Flickr)