There are a lot of reasons you might want to keep your birth control a secret, but it doesn’t really why—it’s your body and your choice. Whether your parents are being overbearing, your partner is controlling, or you live within a region or culture where it’s frowned upon, it’s stress you don’t need to worry about. Luckily there are ways to obtain birth control on the sly. Hopefully one of them will work for you.
Try Planned Parenthood or a community health center
If you’re a teen, it’s possible to get birth control without parental permission in most states. (Here is a chart of the laws in every state.) Confirm minors can consent to contraceptive services in your area, and call a local doctor to ask anonymously if you aren’t sure. (You should be using a private web browser for all of this, too.) Even if you live in a place where you can consent to the services, there are a few ways you could get found out: If you use a parent’s insurance, they could get a statement that says what you used it for. And if you live in a tight-knit community, even though it’s totally unethical and illegal, doctors, nurses, receptionists, and pharmacists can talk.
These concerns aren’t just limited to teens’ interactions with their parents. If you have a controlling partner, for instance, the worries about insurance statements and small-town chatter still apply.
If you are able, consider paying out-of-pocket for your birth control, even if it’s more expensive than using insurance. Planned Parenthood and some community health centers offer sliding scales or programs designed to help you afford your contraception and other reproductive care. Consider filling your prescription at a pharmacy you don’t typically visit, even if it means going out of your way.
Look into telehealth options
For decades, cultural and political battles over abortion and birth control have been playing out in individual towns and states and in the Supreme Court. Your personal quest to discreetly obtain birth control is a microcosm of the larger, decades-long pursuit of reproductive rights for all.
What is new is the role technology can play in helping you. There are now telehealth apps, like Nurx, that allow you to not only complete your intake and medical consultation online, but order birth control and have it shipped right to you. After evaluating your responses, a licensed provider can write you a prescription, which the company’s own pharmacy fills. You can get a three-month supply sent to you in packaging that is discreet and unbranded. You should be able to obtain the pill, the shot, the ring, the patch, and even emergency contraception this way.
Consider longterm but reversible methods
Even when you’re being careful, there’s still something indiscreet about regular visits to the pharmacy, mysterious packages showing up at your place at regular intervals, and daily pill consumption. It might make sense for you to consider a long-acting, reversible contraceptive method (or LARC).
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants are, per Planned Parenthood, not only the most effective forms of birth control, but they’re long-lasting and low maintenance. IUDs are t-shaped devices that are placed in your uterus, with very thin strings poking through your cervix into your vagina, while implants are thin plastic rods that are placed under the skin of your arm. Both must be inserted by a professional, and either will prevent pregnancy for years. Paragard, a copper IUD, can last up to 12 years. Mirena, a hormonal IUD, can last up to seven years. Nexplanon, a hormonal implant, can last up to five years. In addition to the simplicity of a set-it-and-forget-it method, these can be removed at any time if you do decide you want to get pregnant.
It’s worth nothing that many users report their implant can’t be seen, but can be felt beneath the skin. It’s also unusual—but not unheard of—for a person with a penis to feel the strings of an IUD during penetrative sex. If you are concerned your partner notice your IUD strings, consult with your healthcare provider; it may be possible for them to trim the strings, which will also soften over time.
Finally, if you are a minor, bear in mind that LARC devices may show up on X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound. If you break a bone or need medical imaging for any other reason and your parents are involved, they could find out that way.
Take some time to call providers and learn what is allowed in your state. Educate yourself on the types of birth control available and figure out what you can afford if you choose to pay out-of-pocket. The most important thing to remember is you deserve control over your own body, whether those around you support you or not, and you should be proud of yourself for taking it.