6 Birth Control Options for Women on a Budget

Angela McCainby:

Science / Health

Birth control can be expensive, but it’s not nearly as pricey as raising a child. Finding effective, budget-friendly birth control options is money in the bank.

Maybe you’re not ready for a baby. Or perhaps you need some downtime between children. Birth control methods come in all shapes and sizes, so you’ll want to explore your choices.

Even if your budget is tight and you lack health insurance, you do have options. Here are six that won’t bust your budget.

1. Fertility Awareness

If you’re looking for low-cost birth control, you can’t beat fertility awareness methods. FAMs monitor the natural changes in a woman’s body to predict ovulation. By avoiding intercourse during those periods, you avoid conception. Once you learn how to practice the methods, they’re essentially free.

Unfortunately, “free” could come at a very high cost. FAMs require women to be exceptionally diligent about tracking monthly changes in their bodies, taking their temperature every morning or observing changes in cervical mucus (or both). They also require sexual abstinence or the use of barrier methods during fertile periods.

Given their susceptibility to human error — and human passion — FAMs are only 76%-88% effective in preventing pregnancy.

2. The Pill

In contrast, oral contraception (a.k.a., the pill) is one of the most effective birth control methods. Moreover, the amount of options available and familiarity for most women make it a great option.It’s also one of the least expensive, which may explain why it’s so popular.

The pill requires a prescription, but new services enable you to connect with a provider and get your birth control online. The cost for monthly pill packs ranges anywhere from $0 to upwards of $100, depending on insurance coverage, pill type and the provider. Some even include one-year online access to medical professionals in that cost.

Regardless of where you get the prescription, you’ll need to choose between a brand-name or generic pill. Know that paying more does not increase the pill’s effectiveness; generics offer the same protection from pregnancy.

Most types of the pill are 99% effective if taken correctly. If they aren’t, the effective rate drops to a still respectable 91%.

You do have to remember to take the pill daily, and that’s a problem for some women. But overall, the pill gives you solid bang for the buck on price and efficacy.

3. The Shot

If you aren’t afraid of needles, the Depo-Provera shot might be a good method for you. Because this hormonal injection uses progestin rather than estrogen, breastfeeding women and migraine sufferers typically can use it safely.

If you can’t tolerate injecting yourself in the stomach or thigh, you’ll have to pay for a doctor’s visit. But if you can DIY it, you’ll find a wide range of costs for one injection of Depo-Provera and generics. That cost can go as high as $150, but the shot may be free or low cost through health insurance or Medicaid.

Just remember that one injection lasts 12-14 weeks. The shot is 94% effective, and you only have to remember it four times a year.

4. The IUD

If you can afford to fork over the cost of a visit to your gynecologist and anywhere from $800 to $1,300, you might consider an intrauterine device (IUD). Here, too, that cost could be substantially lower if you have health insurance or are on Medicaid.

An IUD is a device inserted into the vagina to create a hostile environment for sperm. The IUD has a 99.2% to 99.8% efficacy rate.

Most IUDs work using hormones, but there are also copper IUDs that use none. The copper prompts an inflammatory reaction that is inhospitable to both ova and sperm.

The price tag may sound high, but hormone IUDs work for three to seven years. Copper IUDs work for 10.

5. The Implant

As with the IUD, the contraceptive implant requires a doctor’s visit for insertion. It’s a little round rod implanted into your upper arm that releases progestin for up to four years.

The cost for the actual implant ranges anywhere from $0 with insurance to $1,300, and it’s covered by most health insurance plans. If you’re paying out of pocket, you can find options in the $400-$500 range.

Again, remember to amortize the cost of the implant over four years to keep from choking on the up-front cost. Not needing to think about birth control for four years might be worth the investment.

6. Over-the-Counter Methods

Last but not least — and certainly better than taking your chances with nothing at all — there are over-the-counter options. Condoms and spermicides are easy to get and don’t cost a lot of money.

Condoms are 98% effective if used correctly but 85% if not. However, they do provide the added benefit of protection against STDs. Spermicides, on the other hand, are only 72% effective. Used in tandem, though, they can greatly decrease the likelihood of conception.

There’s a flip side to the low cost and ready availability of these methods. Both require that you use them in the moment, and that’s certainly not always convenient.

Small Budget, Big Options

If you have health insurance, nearly any birth control option is available on almost any budget. If you don’t, your options might be fewer, but you still have some.

Don’t forget to figure into the equation factors like how you get your prescriptions and where you have them filled. Online birth control options are incredibly convenient and affordable. They also let you skip the doctor’s office during the pandemic.

Remember, too, that some pharmacies charge more than others for the same prescriptions. Generics typically cost less than name brands. Having your prescription delivered to your door might cost more but save you time.

Pick your pros and your cons, your priorities and your price point. There’s no need to bust your budget until you’re ready to make room for baby.



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