New Survey Reveals Increasing Barriers for Women Seeking Birth Control and Disproportionate Impact on Women of Color

Faced with job losses and disruption from the pandemic, women find it more challenging in 2020 to access birth control, a critical aspect of women’s health

San Francisco – November 18, 2020 – Medicines360, a global nonprofit women’s health pharmaceutical organization fighting to make access to medicines for all women a reality, today released the results of a survey finding that barriers for women have increased when it comes to accessing birth control, as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey of 1,200 women ages 18-34 found that more than half (54%) of respondents have encountered barriers to accessing birth control, up from 46% in 2019[1].

Women of color are disproportionally impacted by barriers to birth control. Latina women were more likely to report barriers to access (61% vs 54% of all women 18-34), and Black women reported facing additional barriers to information on their full range of options. Black women are significantly more likely (24%) than White (12%) and Latina women (15%) to have no awareness of hormonal IUDs, one of the most effective methods of birth control.[2] Not only does race impact access, geography also plays a role, with more women in the Midwest (40%) reporting they did not know their options (versus 29% of all women 18-34 who reported encountering barriers).

Systemic barriers lead to widespread disparities and restrict birth control access and choice for too many women. On top of that, stigma and a constant politicizing of reproductive health has left women lacking answers and unsure where to turn for help. Of the women who faced barriers accessing birth control, the top reasons cited were feeling uncomfortable having open conversations (39%), cost (31%) and not knowing their options (29%).

“The healthcare system is overwhelmed, many transportation and childcare services are closed, people are scared to leave their homes and an unprecedented number of women are finding themselves out of work. All of this can make it almost impossible for some women to get birth control and take care of their reproductive health,” said Jessica Grossman, M.D., CEO of Medicines360. “The COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating the challenges too many people were already experiencing when trying to get birth control. Now more than ever, it’s critical that patients have the resources and information they need to prioritize their reproductive health.”

In addition, access barriers take an emotional toll. More than half (54%) of women reported negative experiences accessing or trying to access birth control, with feeling awkward (33%) and anxious (29%) as the top drivers. Even though most women (88%) in the survey currently use or have used FDA-approved birth control, ongoing attacks on women’s health and the pandemic are making access difficult for too many women.

Amid this prolonged period of uncertainty, having a trusted source to speak with is more critical than ever to help enable women to maintain their bodily autonomy. When it comes to talking about birth control, 41% of women cited their healthcare providers (HCPs) such as doctors, nurses, counselors or health clinics as those they felt most comfortable talking about birth control with. A smaller portion of women cited their significant others (23%) and friends (19%) as the person they felt most comfortable talking to.

“It’s critical that HCPs continue to serve as their patients’ biggest advocates, especially right now when so much is uncertain,” Dr. Grossman noted. “Women who don’t have an OBGYN or primary care physician still have options when it comes to birth control. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are on the front lines of caring for women across the country right now. These neighborhood health centers provide comprehensive care for free or low cost to women who are under- or uninsured.”

FQHCs deliver publicly funded family planning care to approximately two million women each year across the U.S. at 13,000 sites.[3] FQHCs have sliding fee scales for uninsured patients to make care affordable and accessible, making these an important resource for women facing challenges such as losing insurance.

This survey was conducted as part of Medicines360’s ongoing #NotAwkward campaign. #NotAwkward is part of Medicines360’s commitment to using education to remove the barriers women face when seeking birth control. Among other efforts, the organization provides its hormonal IUD to qualifying public health centers at a price substantially below the 340B ceiling price set by statute. Medicines360 is also actively working to expand access to hormonal IUDs to women across the globe, most recently in Madagascar and Zambia.

To learn more about the campaign and to hear women’s stories about birth control access, visit https://www.medicines360.org/women. To share your story on Twitter or Instagram, use #NotAwkward.

The survey was conducted on behalf of Medicines360 by Southpaw Insights.

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About Medicines360

Medicines360, located in San Francisco, California, is a nonprofit global women’s health pharmaceutical company with a mission to remove cost as a barrier to health by developing and providing affordable Women’s Health products. Medicines360 is committed to working with healthcare providers, advocacy groups and patients to deliver innovative and meaningful treatments that help women around the world have greater access to the medicines they need. For more information, visit www.medicines360.org

Survey Methodology

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Southpaw Insights. Total sample size was 1,000 women, ages 18-34. An additional 200 women who are self-reported current users of a hormonal IUD were also surveyed. The survey was conducted online from September 2-20, 2020. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US women aged 18-34.

About Southpaw Insights
Southpaw Insights designs and executes qualitative and quantitative research. We combine creative methodologies and a unique way of looking at the world with smart, sophisticated analytic techniques to help you understand what people think, feel and do, so you can make smarter decisions. More about Southpaw can be found at www.southpawinsights.com.


[1] https://www.medicines360.org/2019/09/16/medicines360-launches-notawkward-campaign/

[2] https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/iud/how-effective-are-iuds

[3] https://bphc.hrsa.gov/about/healthcenterprogram/index.html

About Medicines360

Medicines360, located in San Francisco, California, is a nonprofit global women’s health pharmaceutical organization with a mission to catalyze equitable access to medicines and devices through product development, policy advocacy, and collaboration with global and US partners. Medicines360, through its subsidiary Impact RH360, launched the Avibela Project to expand access to hormonal IUDs in low- and middle-income countries. For more information, visit medicines360.org

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AVIBELA can be made available in the following 88 countries

  1. Algeria
  2. Angola
  3. Bangladesh
  4. Belize
  5. Benin
  6. Bhutan
  7. Botswana
  8. Burkina Faso
  9. Burundi
  10. Cambodia
  11. Cameroon
  12. Cape Verde
  13. Central African Republic
  14. Chad
  15. Comoros
  16. Costa Rica
  17. Cuba
  18. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  19. Djibouti
  20. Dominica
  21. Dominican Republic
  22. Egypt
  23. El Salvador
  24. Equatorial Guinea
  25. Eritrea
  26. Ethiopia
  27. Gabon
  28. Ghana
  29. Grenada
  30. Guatemala
  31. Guinea
  32. Guinea-Bissau
  33. Haiti
  34. Honduras
  35. India
  36. Indonesia
  37. Ivory Coast
  38. Jamaica
  39. Kenya
  40. Lao PDR
  41. Lesotho
  42. Liberia
  43. Libya
  44. Madagascar
  45. Malawi
  46. Malaysia
  47. Maldives
  48. Mali
  49. Mauritania
  50. Mauritius
  51. Mayotte
  52. Morocco
  53. Mozambique
  54. Myanmar
  55. Namibia
  56. Nepal
  57. Nicaragua
  58. Niger
  59. Nigeria
  60. Pakistan
  61. Panama
  62. Papua New Guinea
  63. Philippines
  64. Republic of the Congo
  65. Rwanda
  66. Sao Tome and Principe
  67. Senegal
  68. Seychelles
  69. Sierra Leone
  70. Somalia
  71. South Africa
  72. South Sudan
  73. Sri Lanka
  74. Kitts and Nevis
  75. Lucia
  76. Vincent & the Grenadines
  77. Sudan
  78. Swaziland
  79. Tanzania
  80. Thailand
  81. The Gambia
  82. Timor-Leste
  83. Togo
  84. Tunisia
  85. Uganda
  86. Vietnam
  87. Zambia
  88. Sri Lanka

Tina Raine-Bennett, MD, MPH, FACOG

Chief Executive Officer

Tina Raine-Bennett, MD, MPH, is CEO of Medicines360. Previously, she served as a senior research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and the research director of the Women’s Health Research Institute. She is a Board-Certified Obstetrician Gynecologist who received her medical training at the University of California, San Diego, and post-graduate residency training and MPH at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she also completed a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Fellowship. She was also senior staff physician at Kaiser Permanente and has a special interest in family planning and adolescent reproductive health.

As the director of the Women’s Health Research Institute, Dr. Raine-Bennett focused on expanding research on women’s health within the Division and translating women’s health research into clinical practice and policy within the Ob/Gyn departments in Northern California. She also promoted the involvement of clinicians in research designed to improve the health outcomes and healthcare experiences of women at Kaiser Permanente and women in general.

Prior to Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Raine-Bennett was a professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She was based at San Francisco General Hospital where she was also the medical director of the New Generation Health Center, a UCSF affiliate site that provides community-based reproductive health services. Dr. Raine-Bennett’s research has focused on contraceptive methods and on elucidating factors that influence contraceptive choice and continuation, and she was principal investigator on NIH grants to assess hormonal contraceptive use predictors and develop interventions to improve contraceptive access.

Her past and current research on emergency contraception has focused on the safety of making emergency contraception more accessible and she conducted a pivotal clinical trial to make emergency contraception available to teens without a prescription. She served on the editorial board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and has over 100 peer-reviewed publications. She was the Treasurer of the Board of Directors for the Society of Family Planning and Society of Family Planning Research Fund. She has also served as an examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and on national committees for the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the National Medical Board of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.