National Partnership for Women & Families

Monthly Women's Health Research Review

Survey: Most Adolescents Support OTC Access To Oral Contraceptives for Teenagers

Summary of "A Survey of Adolescents' Attitudes Toward Over-the-Counter Access to Oral Contraceptives," Manski/Kottke, Journal of Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecology, April 2015.

While "[a] growing body of evidence suggests that over-the-counter [OTC] access to oral contraceptive pills may improve contraceptive access and use among adult women ... no work has investigated how moving oral contraceptive pills [OTC] would impact adolescents," write Ruth Manski and Melissa Kottke of the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health.

According to the authors, adolescents are "disproportionately affected by unintended pregnancy." Manski and Kottke devised a study to "explore adolescents' attitudes toward [OTC] access to oral contraceptives."


For the study, the researchers in September 2014 recruited female adolescents between ages 14 and 17 to take part in an online survey. They were recruited using Facebook advertisements.


According to the study, the Facebook ad received 3,720 clicks. Overall, 482 adolescents agreed to participate, and 348 completed the survey. Of those who completed the survey:

~ 32% were age 17;

~ 31% were age 16;

~ 24% were age 15; and

~ 13% were age 14.

A majority of those who completed the survey identified as white (79%) and said they lived in a suburban area (53%). Forty-one percent said they had private health insurance, while 33% said they had public health insurance. According to the study, participants came from 44 states, distributed equally across geographic areas.

Of the participants, about 50% said they had used contraceptives. Meanwhile, 44% said they had engaged in sexual activity; 60% of those said they had unprotected sex and 12% said they had been pregnant.

Overall, 73% of participants said they were in favor of teenagers having OTC access to contraceptives. In addition, 61% of participants said they likely would use oral contraceptives if they were available OTC.

The researchers found that there was "a statistically significant association" between supporting teenagers having OTC access to contraceptives and having previously used contraceptives or had sex. In addition, they found that there was an association between the likelihood that individuals would use oral contraceptives if they were available OTC and having used contraceptives, having engaged in sexual activity and being white.

Meanwhile, the researchers found that "[s]upport for and likelihood of [OTC] use were not impacted by age, geographic region, rural/urban location, health insurance status, or pregnancy history."


Manski and Kottke wrote, "Given the unique barriers that adolescents face accessing contraception, moving oral contraceptives [OTC] without age restriction may help increase adolescents' contraceptive access and use."