A survey of adolescents’ attitudes toward over-the-counter access to oral contraceptive pills
Awarded 2014
Trainee Grants
Ruth Manski, BA
Emory University

Objectives: Evidence suggests that over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives may improve contraceptive access and use among adult women. Teenagers may particularly benefit from this approach, as they experience disproportionately high rates of unintended pregnancy and face unique challenges accessing contraception. However, limited research has focused on teenagers and over-the-counter access. The aims of this study were to assess teenagers’ attitudes toward over-the-counter access and understanding of how to use oral contraceptives based on reading a prototype over-the-counter product label. Methods: During 2014, 348 females aged 14-17 were recruited via Facebook advertisements to participate in an online survey. Descriptive statistics and bivariate analyses were conducted using SPSS. Pearson chi-square and Fisher’s exact tests were conducted for categorical outcomes and independent t-tests and one-way ANOVA for continuous outcomes. Results: Seventy-three percent of participants reported being in favor of over-the-counter access and 61% reported that they would be likely to use oral contraceptives through over-the-counter access. Participants who had sex were significantly more likely to be interested in using over-the-counter access (77% vs. 48%). Participants understood an average of 7.1 of 8 key concepts that the prototype over-the-counter product label was intended to convey; no significant differences were found among subgroups. Conclusion: Study participants are interested in using oral contraceptives over the counter and can understand how to use an over-the-counter product. These findings, in combination with evidence documenting the safety and effectiveness of over-the-counter access, support continued exploration of reclassification of oral contraceptives to over-the-counter status without age restriction.