Without ongoing education, our knowledge about birth control is frozen in time. In The State of Your Birth Control, Lifehacker follows the history of contraception in the U.S. and explains what everyone needs to know about their options, recent medical advancements, and legal access. Follow the complete series here.
Not getting pregnant can be complicated and expensive. First, there’s choosing which type of birth control is the best fit for your particular needs and desires, and then there’s paying for it. Although the Affordable Care Act requires most private insurance plans to cover contraceptives in full, 25% of insured patients reported having to pay a portion of their costs, for reasons like going to an out-of-network provider, or opting for a method that wasn’t covered.
For those without insurance, 1 in 5 have reported having to switch birth control methods due to the cost. Costs can vary widely, ranging from $0 to more than $1000 per year depending on the type of birth control and whether you have health insurance coverage. According to the CDC, the most common methods of birth control are tubal sterilization (18.1%), birth control pills (14.0%), long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs and implants (10.4%), and male condoms (8.4%).
Types of birth control
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Birth control can be split into two categories: reversible and irreversible. For the reversible options, these include options that are taken daily, weekly or monthly, or options that last months to years. Irreversible options are where the doctor performs a surgery that permanently sterilizes you.
For the reversible options, it’s generally best to compare prices by looking at how much it costs per year, while the irreversible options are a one-time fee, that have the effect of providing a lifelong benefit.
Reversible contraceptive options
Reversible contraceptive options can range from short-acting options, such as condoms, to more long-acting options, such as the birth control shot, which provides three months of contraceptive action, or an intrauterine device (IUD), which can last three to 10 years depending on the type. With reversible contraception, the goal is to prevent pregnancy in the short term without affecting long-term fertility.
How much condoms cost
Condoms can be bought over-the-counter at a wide range of stores, including gas stations, convenience stores, drugstores and grocery stores. Depending on the brand, the price will vary, but a 3-pack will range from in price from $3-$6, while buying them in 12-packs or more will usually bring the price down to less than $1 per condom. From a financial standpoint, condoms have the advantage of being a per-use item, one that can be easily purchased in the quantity that you need, whenever you need it.
How much birth control pills cost
The cash price for a 30-day supply of birth control ranges from $22-$79, depending on which brand and type of birth control you opt for. On average, an uninsured person who uses birth control pills pays $268 a year for their medication. For insured people, 67% report paying no out-of-pocket costs for their birth control pills.
How much the birth control patch costs
The birth control patch works by releasing a combination of hormones that prevent pregnancy. Users will wear the patch for three weeks, then take it off for one week, after which they will put on a new patch. The cash pay price for a pack of three patches, which lasts for three months, costs about $140, for an annual cost of $560.
How much a birth control ring costs
A birth control ring is a small, flexible ring that gets inserted in the vagina, where it slowly releases a combination of hormones into the body. Depending on the brand, the ring will be worn for 3-6 weeks, after which it is taken out. The cash price for a vaginal ring averages $167 per month. People whose health insurance doesn’t cover it in full report spending an average of $400 per year.
How much birth control shots cost
The birth control shot, which is an injection that contains the hormone progestin, provides 12 weeks of contraceptive action. For those who are uninsured, the initial visit will usually cost between $50-$200, while additional injections typically cost between $20-$40.
Irreversible contraceptive options
For irreversible contraceptive options, the goal is to provide a permanent method for preventing unwanted pregnancies, whether it’s a tubal sterilization, where the fallopian tubes are either blocked or removed, or a vasectomy, where a portion of the vas deferens are removed.
How much tubal sterilization (“getting your tubes tied”) costs
During a tubal sterilization procedure, the doctor will either block or remove the fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the uterus. This prevents eggs from being fertilized and implanted in the uterus, thus preventing pregnancy. For patients without insurance, a tubal sterilization surgery can cost up to $6,000. For patients with insurance, most, if not all of the costs are usually covered.
How much a vasectomy costs
During a vasectomy, the doctor removes part of the vas deferens, which are the tiny tubes that transport mature sperm from the testicles to the penis. Without insurance, the procedure will cost about $1,000. However, vasectomies are not considered essential health benefits and as such, are not required to be covered by insurance. Check with your provider to see what’s covered.