Background: Interest is growing in moving oral contraceptives over-the-counter (OTC), although concerns exist about whether women would continue to get preventive health screening.
Study design: We recruited cohorts of US-resident women who obtained oral contraceptives from US family planning clinics (n=532) and OTC from pharmacies in Mexico (n=514) and interviewed them four times over 9 months. Based on self-reports of having a Pap smear within 3 years or ever having had a pelvic exam, clinical breast exam and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), we assessed the prevalence of preventive screening using Poisson regression models.
Results: The prevalence of screening was high for both groups (>88% for Pap smear, pelvic exam and clinical breast exam and >71% for STI screening), while the prevalence ratios for screening were higher for clinic users, even after multivariable adjustment.
Conclusions: Results suggest that most women would obtain reproductive health preventive screening if oral contraceptives were available OTC, and also highlight the need to improve access to preventive screening for all low-income women.