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Over the Counter Birth Control

Contraceptives that are Available OTC


Updated November 17, 2010

Over the counter birth control are barriers methods that obstruct sperm from reaching an egg. These contraceptives can be obtained without a doctors prescription. The available OTC birth control methods are reliable, effective, and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

1. Male Condom

Condom Photo Courtesy of E. Scott

Condoms cover the man's penis during sexual intercourse and collect semen before, during, and after he ejaculates. This contraceptive device prevents sperm from entering the vagina. Condoms can be made of latex, polyurethane (plastic), natural membrane (lambskin), or polyisoprene (non latex natural rubber)). They are available dry or lubricated. This is also one of the few birth control methods that can help protect against sexually transmitted infections. If condoms are used with a spermicide (foam, cream, jelly, suppository, or film), even greater protection against pregnancy is possible.

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2. Female Condom

Photo © 2007 Dawn Stacey

Female condoms are polyurethane (plastic) pouches with flexible rings at each end. It collects semen and prevents the sperm from entering the woman's body. The woman inserts the ring at the closed end of the female condom deep into her vagina (like a diaphragm). The ring at the open end should hang about an inch outside the vagina. The female condom is a reversible barrier method of birth control and can be helpful in the protection against many sexually transmitted diseases.

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3. Spermicide

Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber

Spermicide is available as foams, film, creams, suppositories, and jellies and forms a barrier against sperm. These products should be placed deep into the vagina right before intercourse where they will then melt (except for contraceptive foam, which forms bubbles). These contraceptives contain a chemical spermicide (usually nonoxynol-9) that will immobilize sperm, which prevents the sperm from fertilizing an egg. When used by itself, spermicide is not as effective as other over the counter methods and does not offer protection against STDs. When used with a condom, effectiveness is improved.

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4. The Sponge

Today Sponge Photo © 2007 DELC

The sponge is a soft, round barrier device that is about two inches in diameter. It is made of solid polyurethane foam, contains spermicide, and has a nylon loop attached to the bottom for removal. The sponge must first be moistened with water and then the woman inserts it into her vagina before intercourse. It covers the cervix (opening to the uterus), and it blocks sperm from entering it. The sponge also releases a spermicide that can immobilize sperm, thus, preventing the sperm from reaching an egg. Although taken off the market in 1995, the sponge is now available again for contraceptive use.

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5. Plan B One-Step

Photo © Dawn Stacey 2009

Plan B One-Step is a brand of a progestin-only pill approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for emergency contraception (EC). Plan B One-Step is also referred to as the morning after pill and consists of one EC pill that contains the progestin hormone levonorgestrel. Plan B One-Step should be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected intercourse or birth control failure (the sooner, the better). The morning after pill is NOT the same thing as the abortion pill and will NOT harm an existing pregnancy. Plan B One-Step can be bought over the counter at local pharmacies for those 17 or older.

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  2. Health
  3. Contraception
  4. Glossary
  5. Contraception Glossary: O-P
  6. Over the Counter Birth Control - What Are Over the Counter Birth Control Methods

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