Where can I get free birth control if I don't have insurance?

Dear Alice,

My boyfriend and I have a really close relationship. I do not have insurance yet, and I absolutely need contraception. Where can I go or who can I call for free contraception? Please help!!!

— No Money for Birth Control

Dear No Money for Birth Control, 

Kudos to you for looking into contraceptive methods and recognizing that enjoying sex to the fullest may mean investing some time and resources into putting safety first. In relation to free contraception options specifically, they may be available at federally qualified health centers (FQHC), local health departments, safety-net clinics, campus clinics, or organizations like Planned Parenthood. While you stated that you don’t have insurance yet, it may be helpful to know that if you choose to enroll in the future, some plans may even cover the entire price of birth control for you. 

Before diving into ways to get free or low-cost birth control, it might be helpful to have a general overview of the various birth control methods. That way you can identify the best option for you and your partner during this season of your relationship. There are a number of options for birth control that help to provide flexibility for people depending on what their goals are for using contraception. It’s worth mentioning that most people with internal reproductive anatomy have a wider array of contraception options compared to people with external reproductive anatomy. 

Typically birth control options fall into four larger categories which include medication or long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), barrier methods, surgical options, and lifestyle choices. 

  • Medication and LARCs - These can be further broken down into two more categories: those with hormones, and those without. While both of these methods work to prevent pregnancy, the way in which this occurs differs slightly. While hormonal options typically work by reducing or preventing ovulation, nonhormonal methods work by actively blocking sperm from reaching an egg. This includes medication like the pill and the shot or the insertion of an implant or intrauterine device (IUD). 
  • Barrier - Condoms are often the most commonly used barrier method, however, diaphragms, sponges, and spermicides also fall into this category. While barrier methods like condoms can be great for helping to reduce the likelihood of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), they’re often most effective at preventing pregnancy when paired with another form of birth control such as a medication or a LARC. 
  • Surgical – If you’re searching for something more permanent, surgeries like tubal ligation or a vasectomy may be the best option. However, it’s important to note that there are two types of vasectomies and depending on how long ago you got the vasectomy and what type you received, it may be reversable. 
  • Lifestyle – While lifestyle options are typically the least effective at preventing pregnancy—aside from abstinence—they are however often the most cost effective. Methods like withdrawal, outercourse, and fertility awareness (FAM) are available free of charge but may take more planning and documentation to track your cycle. 

While some birth control methods are designed to do just that—prevent pregnancy—they often don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A dual protection method might be considered depending on the level of trust between you and your partner(s). For example, if a person uses hormonal birth control and their partner uses condoms, they may discuss using both options during sex to prevent both pregnancy and the risk of contracting an STI. 

Now that you’re more aware of the contraceptives that exist, the question still persists; where can you get them? Free birth control may be available at a variety of locations. One such location is at federally qualified health centers, which support people with low income, no health insurance, or other financial challenges that hinder them from accessing healthcare. Local health departments and safety-net clinics also aim to care for patients in the community regardless of their background. If you’re a student, your school may also have a sexual health clinic or center where they provide free contraceptives such as external condoms. Planned Parenthood or other nonprofit health organizations often provide information and resources for family planning. If you’re planning on enrolling in insurance in the future, plans under the Affordable Care Act often pay for some types of birth control since it’s a form of preventative health. 

While your current lack of insurance may dissuade you from some of the more costly options, there are a few low-cost options that may be more affordable and fit into your budget. Some telehealth services have paid subscriptions following consultation. However, some offer what are known as sliding-scale payment options that help you to pay only what you can afford. Examples of these services are GoodRx Care, NuRx, ForHers, or TwentyEightHealth. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also recently approved an over-the-counter birth control pill, so another product that doesn’t require insurance may be on drugstore shelves soon. Overall, looking into what services or methods are best for you and your partner’s needs will ensure that you find the birth control method that’s right for you. While emergency contraception options do exist, they’re not recommended as a replacement for a regular birth control method. 

As you navigate through the various options, consider discussing your options not only with your partner(s) but also with a health care provider. Choosing the method that best suits you and your partner can be a process, but a worthwhile one. Props to you for navigating your sexual health and considering contraception methods! 

Last updated Nov 24, 2023
Originally published May 02, 2008

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