There are many factors to consider when looking at birth control options, and cost is an important one. If the cost is too high, a person is less likely to use a family planning method for a long time or use it consistently. This means that a woman is more likely to be at risk for an unplanned pregnancy. Women are especially hard hit by this financial burden, since they are most often the ones responsible for making family planning decisions.
We decided to look at average annual cost, because it is the fairest way of comparing the relative costs of different methods. A method that requires a one time purchase, like an IUD, may have a hefty price of about $700. However, it can be used for as long as 10 years, which makes it somewhat more economical on an annual basis than one might imagine at first - though we should note that the average length of use for an IUD is likely to be much shorter than the 10 years the manufacturer claims. Meanwhile, condoms are cheap individually at about $1.25 per unit on average; however, the annual cost for a year of coverage with condoms might be a higher than expected, given that they must be purchased for every act of intercourse.
There are three things that factor into calculating the annual costs for a particular birth control method:
1) The average cost per unit.
2) The number of units used in a year.
3) The number of years a particular method is to be used, in the case of methods that are a one-time purchase (i.e., CycleBeads and an IUD).
With these factors in mind, we've reviewed costs as provided by Consumer Reports, Planned Parenthood, and suggested retails prices, for various birth control options and created a table that shows the "Average Cost of Contraception for a Woman in the U.S." per year.
As shown on the chart, the costs for effective birth control ranges from about $7 per year for a fertility awareness-based method such as CycleBeads to about $390 per year for a hormonal method of birth control. Costs may vary depending on an individual’s insurance coverage and whether or not her healthcare provider subsidizes certain methods. The average costs take into account these discounts, so some individuals may pay significantly more for a specific method while others may be getting them for free.
Of note, we did not include other fertility awareness-based methods besides CycleBeads. The cost for these methods can vary widely depending on whether books are purchased, devices are used, and/or if a couple receives professional counseling. Therefore, it would have been difficult to calculate an accurate “average cost” that would be widely agreed upon since the costs range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars.
Many argue that the cost of birth control - even expensive birth control - is far less than the cost of having a baby. This is of course true, but the immediate cost of birth control can nonetheless be a contributing factor to whether a woman decides to use a method consistently or to use a method at all. Women need family planning methods that they can afford. The goal is to make sure that women know their options and know that there are viable, effective options for any budget.