cw: mentions of menstruation and theoretical medical discrimination.
I am not a medical professional, and this should not be taken as medical advice. It is my personal experience, a mini-review, and a few suggestions, but please use your best judgment and speak with a medical professional if you have any real concerns. Also, the links and information represent what’s available in the United States.
Here are a few fun facts about me:
- I have always had irregular periods.
- They got significantly worse as I got older and gained weight.
- Due to mental illness, I haven’t had a full-time job in a long time, and therefore have no insurance.
- I live in a part of the country that is not remotely queer-friendly.
- The nearest Planned Parenthood from me is an hour’s drive.
- I have severe social anxiety.
So, this is not a winning combination, as you can imagine. I’m fortunate that my partner is a) asexual and b) lacking a penis, so pregnancy is pretty unlikely. But in the past year or so, as stress has increased, I’ve started getting frustrated with my periods, which often cause me to spot without warning, which always ruins my day (not to mention my underwear).
Like many others, I’ve started seeing advertisements for websites that can prescribe hormonal birth control without a physical exam, with or without insurance. They’re not available in every state, but they were, to my surprise, available in my conservative southern home. I was intrigued, but uncertain. I couldn’t find many write-ups about these programs that weren’t produced by these businesses themselves. And their FAQs are often woefully lacking in things I actually wanted to know. Did I have to pay for the virtual exam or just for the medication? Would they prescribe birth control to someone who wanted to control their periods, or would they insist I go see an IRL doctor first? Would they deny me if I report myself as overweight, or if I’m honest about things like my clinical depression, which can be exacerbated by birth control?
I don’t know why, exactly, I picked Nurx. Maybe their advertisement was just on my Facebook feed at the right time. Maybe I appreciated that they also provided other services, like HPV screening. Maybe I just really appreciate made-up words with the letter X. It certainly wasn’t for an improved FAQ system compared to other companies—they still don’t have the answers I wanted—but I decided, suddenly, that I was tired of waiting around, and that if it sucked, at least I could scorn them viciously in my blog.
I’m almost appalled to tell you that it was just as easy as they advertise.
I actually registered by accident, if you can actually register for something by accident. I was trying to contact them about maybe doing a sponsored post. I was told to contact their press email, though they never got back to me. (#NotSponsored but not for lack of trying, I guess.) While I was trying to reach them, I made an account to access their in-site messenger system. Later, I got an automated email telling me, essentially, “Hey, you registered, do you want to actually use a service or what?”
And I thought, “You know what? Yeah, I do.” So I started their questionnaire.
Their mobile site is a little screwy, but I successfully maneuvered through the email link to the questions. It asked if I’d ever been on birth control, and if I knew what I wanted. I had not, and did not, so I continued on. The next question was for my sex. Not my gender, but my sex. And it actually had three options—male, female, and intersex. I am not to my knowledge intersex, but I understand that people who are intersex often end up ignored in medical scenarios, so it was actually pretty awesome to see it listed.
I noted that my sex was female, and at no point did this affect how questions were written; while I am a cis-woman, I know it can be super uncomfortable for trans, NB, or gender-nonconforming people to read assumptions about their gender identity or pronouns. I realize this may not be a huge help if the limited selections trigger dysphoria, but it’s an improvement on a lot of platforms. (One of the reasons I hate period trackers is that they almost all have tons of gratingly heteronormative text along the lines of “Hey, ladies, don’t you hate your periods? Have you ever made your boyfriend buy tampons? You go girl!” Ugh.)
It asked questions you might expect—weight, age, whether I had a history of bloodclots. It asked whether I’d prefer a pill, a patch, or a ring, and noted the relative costs of each. At no point did it ask me about my sexual history. It didn’t even ask me why I wanted birth control. The process took less than twenty minutes, not counting my partner and me trying to get my metamour’s blood pressure cuff to work. (It doesn’t expressly require blood pressure, but it asks if you’ve had a recent reading, and we had the equipment available.) It also asked me if I wanted to keep my periods, lighten them, or get rid of them entirely.
And then at the end, it calculated which options it thought I might like best, which would be acceptable with the health conditions I’d listed. It asked if I wanted one, the other, or neither. I did some research on all of them, selected the one that seemed to have the fewest side effects, and then proceeded to checkout. I entered my info, and it said it would run it by a medical professional and contact me in a few days. When they did, they included basic instructions and a list of side-effects to watch out for, and encouraged me to contact them with questions or concerns.
I bought three months’ worth of my preferred birth control pill at $15 a box. I do wish they had more options for how many to buy. What if I can only buy one box at the moment, and would prefer not to put down the entire $45? They also only have an option for auto-pay, which you have to actively cancel. Once I’d had my pills confirmed, they shipped it, and it arrived in my mailbox within a week.
Look. I’m not saying it’s a perfect system. Nurx’s website is not the most intuitive, especially not on mobile, and the FAQs, as I mentioned, don’t answer a lot of things I’d like to know. And obviously, it cannot replace the services of a physical doctor’s office, can’t give you a pap smear or anything along those lines. But traditional doctors’ visits aren’t perfect either, and can be especially difficult for certain groups of people. For queer people, there’s extra anxiety about how a flesh-and-blood doctor might treat you, or how the receptionist will, for that matter. For neurodiverse people and folks with disabilities, a potentially long drive, a waiting room, and a conversation with a stranger in a white coat can be awful. For people without insurance, anything medical just sucks in general. If you don’t have a car, if you have children that you’d need to bring along to a doctor’s visit…there are a lot of reasons that an online option is ideal. And, given the fact that various states in the US are making more and more laws to try to limit access to reproductive health services, anything that makes it easier to do so seems worth checking out.
I know myself well enough to know that, without the online option, I’d probably just continue having shitty, unpredictable periods.
I used Nurx and I appreciated that they were remarkably ungendered in their approach, but it’s not the only service available! Here’s an incomplete list of websites you could use for online birth control, or related services:
They also provide PrEP, HPV screening, and emergency contraception. You can also use my referral code IVY-2M8GF for $20 off your first order. (It will also add some credit to my account, or at least, the first person who uses it will. They weren’t super clear on how it worked.)
I will always encourage supporting and using PP. Unfortunately, their app is in beta (at the time of this writing) and their online services were not available in my state.
Apparently you can get free gifts with each delivery.
Aggressively gendered, but seems to have some decent discounts, if money is a concern.
Do you use any other online services for birth control options? How has your experience been?
This post is not sponsored, and the purchases were done with my own money. It does not contain any affiliate links, but does contain a referral code that could benefit me.