What is the safest birth control you can buy online?
Birth control has never been easier to afford and access. But the dizzying array of birth control options can be confusing. Which one is the safest birth control option? Which one is the most effective? At the same time, in the age of digital commerce, it makes sense that we should be able to order birth control with the click of a button or the tap of a phone screen. Some of us in the more conservative parts of the country don’t want to deal with judgemental looks or small-town gossip. We just want birth control that works ordered from the privacy of our home. The good news is that it’s possible now. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know so that you can buy the safest birth control online.
Prescription contraceptive pills and their side effects
Standard hormonal birth control pills use a mixture of synthetic estrogen and progestin to regulate ovulation and prevent egg implantation in the uterus. They can be quite effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies, but these hormonal contraceptives have mild to dangerous side effects. Hormones like estrogen are extremely powerful. They are what turns a child into a woman or what changes a body during pregnancy. As you might imagine, changing your hormone levels is not without risks.
Even if prescription birth controls are generally safe, there can be problems with specific formulations and brands. There are brand names and generics such as Yasmin, Yaz, Azurette, Ocella, Errin, Trinessa, and Diane 35, among others. Each one may use a different balance of ingredients or use different synthetic version of the hormones. These slight changes though can have unpredictable results. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the problems. Did you know over a 100,000 boxes of Yaz and Ocella were recalled before (source)? There are also thousands of ongoing lawsuits alleging a higher than acceptable risk of blood clots and other dangers.
Let’s look at the potential risks and side effects of hormonal birth control pills.
More common but minor side effects of birth control pills
Many side effects of birth control pills are inconvenient but not particularly dangerous. These include:
- Weight gain. Usually this is the result of fluid retention and not increased fat. However, you may still experience swelling and have a harder time fitting in some clothes.
- Nausea. You may feel ill when first taking hormonal pills. For most, this goes away after the initial several months. For a few others, it is unbearably bad.
- Sore breasts. Your breasts may swell due to the hormonal changes as well as fluid retention. They may be tender and sore when touched.
- Intermittent spotting. Most women report lighter periods when using hormonal birth control. However, you may also see some light spotting in between periods.
- Mood changes. Mood changes are difficult to track, but women with a history of depression are warned to consult with a doctor before taking any birth control.
- Libido changes. Some women report a decrease while others report an increase in libido, or sex drive.
- Skin breakouts. Flushed patches of skin or acne occasionally occur in some women.
Rare but serious side effects of birth control pills
Birth control pills are probably one of the safest drugs you can take. However, for a small fraction of women, they can be dangerous or even deadly. Birth control pills can cause strokes, heart disease, blood clots, liver disease, and certain forms of cancer. The following symptoms are danger signs that tell you to see a doctor right away when taking birth control.
- Stomach pain
- Severe headaches or migraines
- Internal chest pains (not breasts) related to cardiovascular problems
- Swelling in the legs or thighs indicating severe circulatory problems
- Vision or eye issues
Generally, smokers should NOT take estrogen-containing birth control pills. Women with a history or high risk of breast cancer, migraines, depression, blood clots, heart disorders, or other serious health issues should definitely see a doctor.
Other disadvantages of hormonal birth control pills
The other disadvantage of hormonal birth control pills is that you must take them every single day. While most courses are on a 21-day on and 7-day off cycle, many women choose to take 28 pills with the 7-day pills being dummy placebos. This is to maintain the habit of taking a pill every day. If you forget to take pills every day, the effectiveness can go down.
This can also be a privacy issue if you are living with family or relatives and you do not want them to know that you are taking birth control. Non-hormonal birth control does not require daily use, which is why some people prefer them.
Risks with ordering prescription birth control pills online
While oral contraceptives can be quite safe, they are a drug and should be treated as such, with proper prescriptions and medical monitoring. As you can see from the section above, hormonal birth control can cause serious problems. That’s why you should always consult with a doctor before taking the medication.
Limited medical monitoring
These days, newer online services are coming up such as Nurx and Prjkt Ruby, which let you order birth control pills using a website or phone app. New apps for ordering birth control are also popping up all the time now. They make you fill out a little survey and then sell you pills through the mail.
Do you really trust your health to the hands of some “internet doctor”? Is he or she really doing a proper job of assessing your medical history and letting you know if hormonal birth control is safe for you? We don’t think so.
Limited quality control
We mentioned previously that the FDA recalled large batches of Yaz and Ocella. Lawsuits are also underway against the parent company Bayer. Bayer is a serious corporation with quality manufacturing standards. Yet they still have issues. The reason we know about the issues is that there are enough customers to generate enough reports of problems and motivate the FDA to do something.
If you have a small-time or unknown manufacturer making birth control pills in China, do you really think that the FDA can assess the safety? If one out of a hundred women have problems with the pill, but there are only 200 customers worldwide, how would the problem ever be identified?
For these reasons, we are generally do not look favorably upon these newer prescription birth control delivery services.
Alternatives to prescription birth control online delivery
You might want to order birth control online because of its privacy, lower cost, or lack of services in your area. We completely understand that. However, ordering from some unknown supplier is a risky endeavor.
We strongly encourage you to see your doctor and get a proper prescription from him or her if you want to use hormonal birth control. Your doctor can give you a proper checkup and is there to help you if you have problems.
If cost or confidentiality is an issue, there are great resources like Planned Parenthood, or many university health services, that can provide free medical services or consulting. Please look into these first before trying to buy prescription drugs online.
If you want to go the online route, though, we feel that the safest birth control online is in the form of non-hormonal contraceptives. You can get these over-the-counter birth control options from reputable online vendors. As they are non-prescription treatments, the safe and health risks should also be lower. We will focus the rest of this article on this direction, as it is what we recommend if you absolutely must order birth control online.
Safe over the counter birth control choices
Hormonal birth control pills work by changing your internal body chemistry. That’s why they have serious health risks and require a medical prescription. Over the counter birth control limits itself to the outside of the body and preventing fertilization of the egg. A condom is an excellent example of this, but if you are looking for birth control, you probably want an alternative to condoms.
Luckily there are a number of over the counter contraceptives that are also quite effective. Most operate by blocking or killing sperm. We’ll review some of the common types of non-hormonal birth control that you can purchase from an online retailer.
Correctly used spermicide gels
Spermicides kill sperm to block fertilization of the egg. Some types can be used alone, while most should be used in combination with other methods such as diaphragms or condoms. Diaphragms require a prescription, though, just like hormonal pills. Most spermicidal lubes are NOT to be used alone, as they have a 10-20% failure rate. They are only meant to help as a second line of defense.
What to look for in a stand-alone spermicide
Only a small number of spermicides are meant to be used alone as a hormonal birth control replacement. You should be very careful that you pick the right product that is meant to be used alone. Effective spermicides use nonoxynol-9 or N-9 for short.
As using the spermicide correctly is essential, make sure there are clear directions, such as when to apply, how to use it for, and so on. Do not deviate from the instructions. Do not use half a dose to save money, or use for applications that are not listed.
It is important that you and your partner both test out spermicide products. Because the precise formulation varies, there can be skin or urethra irritation. Poorly formulated spermicides can cause pain, usually in the man and not the woman, but be careful when testing out any product.
Review: Options Conceptrol Contraceptive Gel
We recommend the Options Conceptrol Contraceptive Gel (Amazon link) if you are looking for a spermicide-based contraceptive agent that can be used by itself. Conceptrol is the most effective stand alone spermicide you can conveniently order from a reputable online retailer like Amazon. Conceptrol uses 4% N-9 for maximum effectiveness, compared to 3% N-9 in similar products such as the Gynol II Vaginal Contraceptive Gel. From reading the Amazon reviews, you can also estimate the “failure” rate from how many users ended up pregnant. The Gynol II is not very popular, and almost 10% of its reviews indicate product failure. On the other hand, only about 1-2% of Conceptrol reviews indicate they became pregnant.
How effective is Conceptrol? A medical study found that Conceptrol is about 95% effective in preventing pregnancies when used correctly (source). Compare this to condoms, which are about 98% effective when used correctly, and hormonal birth control pills that are >99% effective when used correctly. Combined with the “real-life” statistics from the Amazon reviews, where people report using the product safely for years, we recommend Conceptrol Contraceptive Gel as an effective and safe birth control choice when you want a prescription-free option.
Following instructions is very important, and Conceptrol should be used applied once per use. That means in a very long night of activities, you may need to re-apply the gel. Also, Conceptrol is only effective for up to an hour after application. The applicators are individually wrapped and easy to use. While the gel is initially clear, it will foam up during use.
In terms of safety, there were very few reports of men having irritation from Conceptrol. Again, if you read reviews for other gels or even lubes, you will find that many men have severe pain when using spermicides. Thus, the formulation in Conceptrol works well without common problems.
In terms of cost, Conceptrol is about $1-2 dollars per use. Unlike hormonal birth control, you don’t need to use it every day no matter what. You just use it when you need it. So the cost seems pretty reasonable.
Contraceptive sponge birth control
The birth control sponge is a variant of the spermicidal options made legendary in an episode of Seinfeld. It also uses spermicide, but the spermicide is soaked into a physical sponge. The sponge can cover the cervix and physically block the passage of sperm into the uterus. Compared to other spermicides, the contraceptive sponge has the advantage of lasting up to 24 hours for a single use, with no re-application necessary. The contraceptive sponge has been on and off the US market as the company making it has been bought out. As of now, there is one manufacturer for the US sold under the Today label.
Review: Today Sponge Vaginal Contraceptive Sponge
If you would like an alternative to spermicidal gels, we recommend the Today Sponge Vaginal Contraceptive Sponge (Amazon link). Like Conceptrol, the Today Sponge uses nonoxynol-9 for its spermicidal action.
The instructions for using the Today Sponge are a little bit more involved. You must first wet the sponge, then insert with the dimple over the cervix, and leave it inside for 6 hours after intercourse. Some users find that the sponge is more difficult to use than regular gel applicators, although most are fine after the initial first tries.
The convenience of a sponge is that you can use it for up to 24 hours in total. Unlike the gel, you do not need to re-apply every one hour or after every use. Couples also generally do not notice the sponge, and side effects seem rare. Do note that the use of a vaginal sponge can put you at increased risk of a UTI or other infection.
How effective is the Today Sponge as a contraceptive? When used correctly, the vaginal sponge should prevent 90-97% of pregnancies according to one report, but other sources vary. The Today Sponge on its own, when used correctly, likely has an effectiveness that is similar to Conceptrol, or maybe slightly worse. Like Conceptrol, only about 1% or so of the reviews on Amazon indicate that it failed, so the “real life” test seems to be okay.
The Today Sponge is the only vaginal sponge birth control available in the US. At about $3.50 per use, it is slightly more expensive that Conceptrol, but some women prefer the sponge for its 24-hour period of use without worry.
Why you should buy the morning after pill in advance
Conceptrol or the Today Sponge is your best best for the safest birth control that you can buy online. However, even if you use these products, we strongly recommend that you consider buying the morning after pill online IN ADVANCE.
The morning after pill is not to be used routinely and only in case of an emergency. A morning after pill should be taken immediately after intercourse, but can be taken up to several days later with declining efficiency. Because the morning after pill works like an internal drug, it has higher risks and side effects than the other options we mentioned. However, we still recommend you buying an over-the-counter morning after pill for the following reasons.
- Chance of emergency need is higher for you. If you are considering a single-use contraceptive, whether condoms or spermicides, there is always the chance that you make a mistake. In contrast, patches, IUDs, or diaphragms are always working, whether you remember or not. You need to remember to use hormonal birth control pills every day, but if you forget once, it probably still works. If you choose to proceed with single-use contraceptives, consider having a backup morning after pill just in case.
- When you need one, you don’t want to wait. A morning after pill is most effective when used as soon as possible. If you want to avoid the pharmacy or otherwise need online delivery, you can pay for overnight shipping. However, it still takes one or two days. Have the peace of mind with a morning after pill always ready at home in case of an emergency. By the time you need it, it will may be too late.
- Your friends may one day need it as well. A morning after pill is like a first aid kit. You don’t want to ever use it, but when someone need its, you can be a life saver. Even if you never need it, there is a good chance that one of your friends may some day need it. You can be prepared to help them as well.
How to buy the morning after pill online
There are several options for buying the morning after pill online. You do not need a prescription for these. Amazon sells a couple of brands, and we recommend the Plan B One-Step Emergency Contraceptive (Amazon link).
The Plan B pill is about 95% if taken within 12-24 hours of intercourse, and about 85-90% effective if taken within 3 days of intercourse. Plan B is the standard morning after pill and the one we recommend.
As this is an insurance item for emergencies, we do not think you should skimp and buy cheaper knock-off alternatives that have less medical data and quality assurance. Plan B costs about $35 and has a 2-3 year shelf life. That is about $10 per year for peace of mind, which is definitely worth it. For example, the My Way Emergency Contraceptive (Amazon link) is sold on Amazon for about $25 a pill. A disturbingly high 5 out of 24 reviews (more than 20%) on Amazon say the pill failed to work! We really suggest that you do not get this cheaper knockoff, although it is up to you, of course.
Safest birth control online: a complete plan
We’ve covered the major points you should know before buying birth control online. In short, the safest birth control that you can buy online is likely either Conceptrol or the Today Sponge. These spermicide-based contraceptives do not have the side effects of hormonal birth control and are still very effective. As a an additional safety measure, we would also recommend buying the Plan B morning after pill in cases of accidents and emergencies.
The great thing is that you can buy all of these birth control options online from the reliable vendor Amazon. You get the reputation and customer service of Amazon, along with real customer reviews and data.
We strongly discourage you from buying something as important as contraceptives or drugs from unknown online vendors who may have questionable supply chains in China. Stick with well-known large companies for this kind of purchase, as saving a few dollars in the short-term does not compare to the giant health and life changes you will experience from a bad product. We hope the information here will help you make healthy choices for the safest birth control. As always, please see your doctor before proceeding with any birth control.
One last thing – if you are concerned about birth control, make sure you use a reliable pregnancy test to keep yourself informed!