I Compared 4 Online Birth Control Services - Here are the Results
Over the past year, my Instagram feed has been inundated with ads for birth control sites that claim to provide hassle-free birth control at a lower price - with or without insurance. No yearly visit to the gynecologist that takes months to schedule, no schlepping to CVS to pick up my prescription, no panicked phone calls when the pharmacy doesn't automatically refill in time? It sounded too good to be true. Have we really reached a societal utopia where a woman can shop for birth control on Instagram?
I was curious, but until recently I was working for a company with generous health benefits that covered my brand-name pill, no problem. When I decided to go freelance, I knew I could opt to be covered under my husband's health insurance, but I didn't realize that the only plan we could afford had no prescription coverage.
So for all the chicas like me who find themselves with subpar or nonexistent insurance, or just want to skip the hassle and expense of a trip to the gyno, I decided to compare the four online BCP delivery services popping up most frequently on my feed: Nurx, Hers, The Pill Club, and Simple Health. I'll break down my ratings into four categories: first impressions, price, responsiveness, and customer reviews. As a bonus, we'll even hand out superlatives! Join me on this journey into the world of accessible birth control. One step for this woman; reproductive ownership for all womankind!
Superlative: The O.G.
First Impression: 4/5
Nurx was the first on the Insta scene, and hit marketing the hardest, so it has the natural advantage of exposure bias. The site is clean but not sterile, and friendly in a cool-older-cousin-you-see-twice-a-year-at-holidays kind of way. She'll let you know if there's something stuck in your teeth. In addition to the pill, Nurx also offers the patch or ring, emergency contraceptives, PrEP, and HPV screening kits. They are the most comprehensive of the companies I looked at as far as prescription care for female reproductive health, and they carry 40 brands of generic and non-generic combination pill.
Nurx promises you can "get your first pack for $5 or free with insurance." This is true if you're cool with generic pills (after your first pack, a generic brand will set you back $15/month). Specific name-brands and other forms of birth control cost more, especially without insurance. This was true across the board - but Nurx was the only company I looked at that doesn't charge a consultation fee.
Like all of the online birth control sites I visited, Nurx requires customers to place their order before knowing what the doctor will prescribe for them. Because I have had bad hormonal side effects from a particular BCP in the past, I was nervous about ordering pills before making my concerns known. I sent each of the companies a message, and I got a personalized response back from Nurx the next day assuring me that a doctor would review my profile and concerns before filling my prescription.
Customer Reviews: 4/5
Nurx's Reviews page is filled with glowing, 5-star reviews touting the ease and affordability of the app. The reviews on the App Store are a little more mixed, with an average rating of 3.5 and most unsatisfied users claiming it took longer than they anticipated for their order to process. As they are the only company of the ones I reviewed with an app available, I gave Nurx the benefit of the doubt and rounded up.
Total Score: 18
Superlative: Most *Aesthetic*
First Impression: 5/5
The Hers website is beautiful. If Glossier and Negative had a baby, this would be it. It's millennial-cool at its best. Their offerings are suitably minimal, with 10 brands of BCP, but Hers also offers prescription skincare, pills to up a low sex drive, and hair care that helps prevent and combat female hair loss. Rather than focusing on reproductive health, Hers has opted to provide a range of prescription-strength personal care for women.
Hers is on the higher side at $30/month for a generic pill. The breakdown is $20 for the meds, $10 for a Hers membership, and a $5 medical fee for your first order. There is a promo code that'll get you your first pack for $5 but they only tell you that after you've added BCP to your cart and left it there for a few hours.
I couldn't really evaluate Hers' responsiveness, because they don't have prescriptions available for Georgia residents. They can prescribe to 20 states currently - you can find that list here. The reason they're scoring so low in this category is after I put in my shipping address, the site kicked me out of the order window and wouldn't let me look at the birth control offerings until I logged out. To add insult to injury, I started receiving daily emails advertising their $5 birth control special. Users that can order from Hers say they respond quickly.
Customer Reviews: 4/5
Hers doesn't have reviews on their site, but it has a score of 3.8 on Product Hunt. Unsatisfied customers say they were turned away when they asked for BCP to help with heavy flow and ovarian cysts, and they were concerned that a male-owned company was prescribing potentially dangerous pills (the libido boosters) without sufficient health screenings or providing customers enough information.
Total Score: 14
The Pill Club
Superlative: Most Likely to Bribe You to Be Their Friend
First Impression: 3/5
The Pill Club has tapped into Gen-Z's love of free sample products. Each month, your birth control shipment comes with a "care package" of stickers, skincare and beauty samples, and chocolate. Their homepage image is a pink marble background with piles of care package samples. It feels a little cluttered and aimed towards a younger audience - more high school. But they're nearly guaranteed to carry your brand - The Pill Club can prescribe over 100 brands of BCP, along with the ring and the patch, emergency contraception, and even condoms (as an add-on to your BCP order).
While they do charge a $15 consultation fee to write your prescription, The Pill Club offers most generic pills for $15/month or $20 for a 3-month supply. The 3-month rate is the best I've seen on any site, so for girls without insurance, this may be your cheapest option.
While The Pill Club's automated text messages started coming in as soon as I created an account, when I actually asked them a question, it took a full week to get a reply. They promised that if there was an additional cost to my prescription, they would let me know before billing. When I took a few days to consider my answer, I received daily automated messages asking if I was ready to proceed.
Customer Reviews: 5/5
The Pill Club's Reviews page features glowing Instagram and Facebook posts praising the text updates and the freebies that come with your prescription. I couldn't find a review site that covered them, but I found this Reddit thread with nothing but positives about TPC.
Total Score: 16
Superlative: Most Likely to Show Up to the Wrong Class
First Impression: 3/5
Simple Health, formerly Simple Contacts, was originally a contact lens delivery service that added prescription birth control to its roster when other online birth control services started making waves. And the website still reads primarily as a contact lens service. Especially when you look at their reviews. The purple-and-white color scheme reads as more clinical and less personable than some of the other sites. If you're looking to transfer your existing prescription, however, Simple Health gives you a good chance of finding a more obscure brand - I counted 71 brands of pills on offer.
Simple Health's generic pill runs the standard $15/month, but they have no first-month discount, and there's a $20 consultation fee. If you can afford to wait two weeks after creating your account, they'll send you a follow-up email offering to waive the consultation fee.
Simple Health responded to my message within 24 hours and gave me several options for moving forward. I didn't hear from them beyond that until two weeks later, in the form of the generic follow-up offer with the code to waive the consultation fee.
Customer Reviews: 3/5
Simple Health boasts that they have "over 5,000" 5-star reviews, but nearly all of the comments displayed on their website pertain to prescription lenses, not birth control. On Product Hunt and on the App Store, the app is still known as Simple Contacts (with a 4.8 rating), and I can't find outside reviews anywhere else. It seems like Simple Health is just beginning to get their BCP offerings off the ground, and I'd like to give them more time to work out any bugs.
Total Score: 14
I was nervous about placing an order before knowing what I would be prescribed, so a company's responsiveness made all the difference for me. Nurx was the quickest to respond, and provided me with a personalized answer for my specific issue. It was very clear that there was a real person behind that message who had done some research for me to give the best answer she could. In comparison, my runner-up - The Pill Club - took a week to send a vague response to the same question.
I completed my order with Nurx and received a very discreet package in the mail a few days later - the return label just read "Distribution Warehouse." I got text updates during the shipping process that let me know when to expect my package. The whole process was stress-free, and refills are automatic. I am officially an online birth control convert!
Gone are the days when you had to schedule an appointment with a gynecologist to get a birth control prescription - and fork over a ridiculous office visit copay just to get the same pill okay-ed every year, or even risk getting denied coverage for religious reasons. Forget waiting in line at the pharmacy, now you can get a new prescription in five minutes from your bed. That's the future I signed up for.