Is a prescription needed for all types of birth control?

No, not for all types. A lot of times, when people talk about “going on birth control,” they’re talking about using hormonal birth control — like the pill, the ring, the shot, and the patch. You need a prescription to get those kinds of birth control. The only exception is for emergency contraception — the morning after pill — which is available without a prescription for anyone 17 years old or older. But emergency contraception is meant for situations when you didn’t use birth control or when your birth control fails — like if the condom breaks — and it shouldn’t be used as a regular form of birth control.

Some forms of birth control are always available without a prescription. For example, you can always get condoms, female condoms, the birth control sponge, and spermicide without a prescription. But you should know that over-the-counter methods are not as effective as those you can get with a prescription. So you might want to consider talking over your choices with your doctor or nurse.

Meanwhile, the condom might be your best bet, since it helps protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Using a condom along with another form of birth control is the most effective way to reduce the risk of pregnancy and STDs. Click here to find out about other birth control methods, both prescription and not.