Expanding adolescent access to hormonal contraception: an update on over-the-counter, pharmacist prescribing, and web-based telehealth approaches

Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Dec;30(6):458-464. doi: 10.1097/GCO.0000000000000497.


Purpose of review: Hormonal contraceptives are largely responsible for recent declines in unintended adolescent pregnancies, with oral contraceptives being the most commonly used. Young people face multiple barriers to accessing effective contraception in clinical settings. This article reviews innovations in contraceptive access.

Recent findings: The three biggest innovations are over-the-counter oral contraceptives (OTC-OCs), pharmacist-prescribing, and web-based telehealth platforms. In many countries, oral contraceptives are available OTC, and FDA trials for OTC-OCs are underway in the United States. Many states have passed legislation allowing pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives after a brief health screening. Web-based telehealth platforms also provide prescription contraceptive access. There is a small but growing body of literature that demonstrates young people's interest in, and capacity to consent to, hormonal contraceptives in nontraditional settings. State-to-state variability in minor consent, pharmacist prescribing, and telehealth laws act as barriers to young people's access to these newer options.

Summary: Access to hormonal contraception is expanding outside of clinical settings, reducing barriers. Adolescents' unique needs should be considered in the design, implementation, and evaluation of these new approaches. More data is needed to ensure that adolescents are not excluded from expanded contraceptive access options, as they are disproportionately affected by unintended pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / supply & distribution
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / therapeutic use*
  • Family Planning Services / organization & administration*
  • Family Planning Services / trends
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Accessibility / trends*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / organization & administration
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / trends*
  • Humans
  • Nonprescription Drugs / supply & distribution
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Telemedicine*
  • United States


  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Nonprescription Drugs