Is it really safe to get a prescription without seeing a health care provider in person? To find out, we chatted with Dr. Katie Mysen.
What is your experience with telemedicine?
I am a family nurse practitioner and the owner of a company that provides primary health care services via telemedicine and house calls. Using telemedicine, we are able to manage and treat many acute and chronic illnesses and provide medications and med refills (including birth control). I have been providing care this way for a little over a year and a half.
Is it safe to get a birth control prescription online?
Visits with a health care provider aren’t always necessary when seeking a birth control prescription. The risks associated with taking birth control are related more to a patient’s medical and family history as opposed to anything that would be found on a physical examination. Breast and pelvic exams, cervical cancer screening, and screening for sexually transmitted diseases are important. However, most experts agree that these procedures are not necessary before a prescription for birth control.
What can patients expect when they go online to get birth control?
When a patient is getting a birth control prescription online, she can expect to discuss medical history, family history, and preferences for pregnancy prevention. All this information will be used to determine the best method of birth control for the patient.
How can women make sure they’re getting the right birth control for their needs?
Getting the right birth control is really about personal preference. There are so many great options that, if used correctly, are almost equally effective. First, it’s important for women to know what their goals are in regard to a reproductive life plan. Do they plan to get pregnant at some point? When? If they don’t desire pregnancy at all or don’t plan on getting pregnant for at least a year, a long-term contraceptive option like an implant or IUD might be better for them. If they do plan on getting pregnant within a year, then a short-term option like pills, the ring, or the patch might be better.
Each method has advantages and disadvantages, too. The pill, patch, and ring are equally effective in preventing pregnancy, and they all contain the same hormones, so the side effects for each are similar. The difference is in the administration. The pill has to be taken every day. The patch is changed weekly, and the ring is changed monthly. For some women, it’s easier to remember to do something every single day than to remember to do something once a month.
Another important factor in choosing a contraceptive method is cost. In most cases, pills are going to be the least expensive option and, if not covered by insurance, can be as low as $10/month.
What are some of the biggest benefits of getting a birth control prescription online?
One of the biggest benefits of getting online birth control is convenience. Several of my patients are college students who are away at school. They are able to schedule a quick telemedicine visit, jump on a video chat that usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes, and have their birth control sent to a pharmacy near them. They don’t have to worry about going to a new provider that they don’t know or scheduling an in-person visit when they are on a break from school. They also don’t get into situations in which they run out of their birth control and put themselves at risk of unintended pregnancy.
Who should see a doctor in person rather than getting an online screening?
There are some situations in which a person may need to see a health care provider in person for birth control prescriptions. If the woman has a history of high blood pressure, it’s important to make sure that it’s controlled prior to starting birth control pills containing estrogen, as estrogen can increase blood pressure. If a woman desires a long-term birth control option like an IUD, she would also need to visit a health care provider for an examination and insertion of the IUD.