Sure, you can find lots of different over-the-counter (OTC) birth control methods by stopping in at your local drugstore, Target, Walmart, or grocery store. But, there’s one place you might not have thought to check for easy access to cheap contraception: the Internet.
Buying OTC birth control online can be super convenient, especially if you’re looking for a specific brand or want to explore the broadest range of OTC options. OTC methods tend not to be the most effective, so if you want super-effective birth control, your best bet is to visit a health care provider. If you decide to go the OTC birth control route, these methods may be more effective if you pair them up. (Hint: Condoms go nicely with any method to provide extra pregnancy prevention and STI protection to boot.)
You can typically find cheaper deals online if you’re willing to shop around a bit. (Of course, you should beware of shipping costs—that’s where they get you.)
We surveyed 14 online vendor websites for their selection and pricing of over-the-counter birth control, including shipping rates. The online vendors included:
Our survey helped us come up with this handy guide to getting over-the-counter birth control over-the-Internet for a nice price.
Condoms: The classic, the legend, the people’s method.
Condoms protect against pregnancy and STIs, and you can always pair them with an effective birth control method for good measure. They’re also pretty darn affordable. (You can even get them for free in some expected and not-so-expected places.)
The price of a condom depends on a few things: its brand, what it’s made of, its size, and its novelty value. (Is it flavored? Does it glow in the dark?) You won’t find many chances to buy an individual condom online, but that’s okay. The beauty of condoms is in their variety—you can even buy sample packs to figure out which ones you prefer. Once you’ve got it nailed down, try buying in bulk: The bigger the pack you buy, the less you’ll probably end up paying for an individual condom. It’s an investment.
Speaking of investments, if you’ve been averse to condoms in the past, consider checking out the selections of condom-oriented sites like luckybloke.com, condomania.com, and condomjungle.com. Also check out some tips from the founder of Lucky Bloke for finding a condom you love. (You might be surprised how nice condoms can feel!)
Price range: Approximately $0.22 per condom - $5.00 per condom
Cheapest online vendor(s): Walgreens.com and Amazon.com
Tip: There are all sorts of different condoms, so price may not be the only factor you want to consider. Also, beware of shipping fees.
Internal condoms: The underrated lady-in-waiting.
Internal condoms also protect from STIs and pregnancy, and they have a hidden collection of special advantages: Namely, they can enhance sexual pleasure and you can put one in hours before you’re planning to get it on. They can also be a good alternative for folks who find other condoms uncomfortable.
Not as many online vendors carry female condoms, but the ones that do all sell them for very similar prices.
Price range: Deals averaged out to approximately $2 per condom.
Cheapest online vendor(s): Drugstore.com and LuckyBloke.com
Tip: Vendor sites often lump internal condoms and other condoms together on the same product page, which can make them difficult to distinguish. Look for the “FC2” brand.
Spermicide: Sperm killer. (It’s all in the name.)
Spermicidal products can come in a ton of forms: film, foam, cream, gel, jelly, and a suppository/insert. These products aren’t very effective on their own, so if you feel strongly about not getting pregnant right now, it’s better to use them along with another method like condoms.
Film, foam and gel: $2 - $3 per use.
Inserts and jelly: $1 - $2 per use.
Cheapest online vendor(s):
Film, foam and gel: Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com
Inserts and jelly: ACareOTC.com and Pharmapacks.com
Tip: We found that spermicide wasn’t always searchable as “spermicide” or even “contraception.” There aren’t that many spermicidal product brands, so you may just want to use these brand names to search:
Film and foam: “VCF”
Gel and jelly: “Gynol” and “Conceptrol”
The “Sponge”: Of Seinfeld fame.
The contraceptive sponge is a bit elusive, especially since only one brand (the “Today” sponge) is sold in the U.S. Compared to other over-the-counter methods, the sponge has a unique benefit: The more sex you have while it’s inserted (for up to 24 hours), the more bang for your buck. (Oh yeah we intended that pun.)
Price range: As mentioned above, the sponge’s overall cost is really determined by how many times you can use one in its lifespan (24 hours), but the average cost was around $4 - $6 per sponge. Amazon.com charged between $4 - $5 per sponge.
Cheapest online vendor(s): Amazon.com
Tip: When searching for it online, use the search term “today sponge.” Otherwise you might end up browsing dish-washing products.
Emergency contraception: The secret weapon.
We found three brands of emergency contraception (EC) pills available to order online without a prescription: Plan B One-Step (the classic), Take Action (a generic version of Plan B One-Step), and After Pill (the affordable, online-only newb). You can get ella via an online prescription.
While EC definitely earns a trophy in our hearts, it’s important to know that it’s not as effective as birth control methods you use before having sex. Also, EC pills may be less effective—or even ineffective—for women over a certain weight.
Note: There is one kind of emergency contraception that’s super-effective, but you need to see a health care provider to get it: The copper IUD is 99% effective up to 5 days after unprotected sex regardless of weight. And it lasts up to 12 years as effective birth control! Not too shabby…
AfterPill: AfterPill is extremely affordable, but it doesn’t offer expedited shipping, so get it as backup! One pack sells for $25.
ella: ella is more expensive than most, but its window of effectiveness is longer than other EC brands. You can get ella for $59.
Plan B One-Step: Vendors sell Plan B within the price range of $45 - $50.
Take Action: The three vendors who sold Take Action sell it for approximately $40
Cheapest online vendor(s):
Plan B One-Step: Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com (Word to the wise: If a deal seems too good to be true, it just might be. This article may help you identify any red flags to look for while you’re shopping for some Plan B on Amazon.
Take Action: CVS.com, Drugstore.com, and Walgreens.com.
Tip: If you need to use EC, time is of the essence. If you want to order it online, the cost of getting it overnighted is well worth the peace of mind of taking it ASAP. Even better? Have some ready in the medicine cabinet.
To wrap up, we made a handy table of which websites sell which birth control methods as of October 10th, 2014—and which offer the best prices! We’ll try to keep the table updated, but note that prices and availability will no doubt change over time.