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Online birth control and fertility tests: What to know before you buy

No time to see your doctor? These three companies are making it easier to manage women's health needs on their own time.

Amanda Capritto
5 min read
Modern Fertility

Women's healthcare is historically no fun. I mean, the process of a pap smear speaks for itself. Thankfully, it seems many women feel this way, and some particularly driven women decided to do something about it.

A handful of companies took the most inconvenient and awkward aspects of women's health — like a trip to the gynecologist just for a birth control prescription refill, or checking out at CVS with condoms — and made them much easier.

What if you could take an accurate fertility test without scheduling a doctor's appointment with your OB-GYN or a fertility specialist?

You can, thanks to Modern Fertility co-founders Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy. This mail-order fertility test was born because the founders thought fertility testing wasn't accessible enough. Proactive fertility testing isn't covered by federal health insurance, and most state insurance plans only cover reactive testing — meaning, you have to prove that you weren't able to conceive after trying for an entire year.

Modern Fertility emphasizes the convenience and price tag of its products -- no commute or clinic visit, and no sticker shock. You can take your test at home, or opt to take it at a Quest Diagnostics lab if there's one near you.

You can use your FSA or HSA to pay for a Modern Fertility test, but a test won't break the bank if you don't have one of those. They only cost $159, compared to the average $800 to $1,500 you might pay if you get tested at a fertility clinic.

And when it comes to information and education, Modern Fertility customers get a one-on-one consultation with a fertility nurse at no extra cost, and they can join the weekly "Egginar" all for the one-time $159 fee. The co-founders recommend testing every 9 to 12 months, as fertility hormones change over time. Each subsequent test costs the same $159.  

Vechery and Leahy don't intend for a Modern Fertility test to replace your usual gynecological care. Rather, the test is intended to help you plan ahead for pregnancy. For instance, if you're on the fence about having children, your Modern Fertility test could guide your decision to have children earlier if you find out that you have fewer eggs than average for your age.

Modern Fertility's tests are approved for women between the ages of 21 and 45. For women outside of that age range, Modern Fertility can't run reports because the results interpretations haven't been approved by physicians.

Birth control pills delivered to your doorstep? Yes, please.

The Pill Club is the largest online birth control delivery and prescription service in the US -- delivering for free to all 50 states and prescribing in 38 of them.

Where The Pill Club stands out is its non-pill birth control options. In addition to its nearly 200 brands of oral contraceptives, The Pill Club will also send you a NuvaRing, non-hormonal (male and female condoms) and emergency contraception. Buh-bye, raised eyes at the convenience store checkout.

Pill Club deliveries even comes in super-discreet packaging so no one knows what's arriving at your doorstep.

For those without insurance, or with insurance that doesn't cover The Pill Club, prices are still reasonable. The Pill Club's consultation fee is just $15, and birth control pills start as low as $16 for a three-month supply. The consultation fee includes a health history survey, review by The Pill Club's medical team and your prescription (if you're in one of the 38 states The Pill Club can prescribe in).

If you live outside of those 38 states, you'll need to already have a prescription. The Pill Club can transfer your prescriptions from the pharmacy you already use, or you can have new prescriptions sent directly to The Pill Club from your doctor's office.

If you're under 18 or on your parents' insurance plan, you can still get birth control from The Pill Club, but you may need to call your insurance company and discuss confidentiality first if you don't want your parents to know. In most states, teens can receive a prescription without parental consent.

The Pill Club accepts all major insurance prescription plans and Medicaid in some states. If you're on a private plan, such as Kaiser Permanente, The Pill Club can't fill your prescription because private insurance plans have their own networks of pharmacies.

Delivery is always free, and your meds will arrive in fun care packages that include chocolates or candy, stickers and samples from The Pill Club's partners, often products like tampons and pads, body wipes and moisturizers. 

Hers connects you to physicians for the needs women don't always get enough care for; their skin, hair and sex lives.

Before "meeting" your physician (everything is done digitally through their secure platform), you'll fill out a health and lifestyle questionnaire to tell Hers about your medical history and any current symptoms you have. Then, you'll be connected with a licensed doctor in your state who specializes in the areas you need help with.

With Hers, you can bypass many of the most bothersome parts of receiving care, like waiting hours in the doctor's office just for an antibiotic for a UTI. Hers also provides women with a safe space to ask questions about their sex lives and get answers from qualified professionals. Yeah, you could do that in person with your OB-GYN, but if you struggle to talk about those issues face-to-face, doing it online might feel easier.

Hers combines the offerings of other telemedicine companies that offer products in a singular area, such as online birth control services like The Pill Club and skincare startup Curology. Hers says its products and services are recommended for women from the ages of 18 and up.

Hers was actually launched as a sister company to Hims, the well-being site for men that offers remedies for hair loss, erectile dysfunction, cold sores and other common ailments. I'm surprised to see such accurate female-focused messaging from a male-founded brand, but I'm not at all mad about it -- women could use more men who understand their bodily concerns. 

Not a replacement for primary care

Every woman has unique personal care and medical needs, and it can seem unfair that the process of meeting those needs is complicated, time-consuming and often outright uncomfortable. With startups like Modern Fertility, The Pill Club and Hers, trips to the pharmacy and even the clinic could one day be a thing of the past.

That said, in-person healthcare is still vital for your health. Even if you decide to use one of the companies above  or others, you should still check in with your OB-GYN periodically to get screened for cancer, STDs and other health complications. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends going once a year, or as directed by your doctor.

It's also a good idea to see your primary care physician for an annual check-up to make sure all your vitals (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) are within healthy ranges.

The goal of these companies isn't to fully replace primary care or gynecological care, but to act as intermediaries for the things women don't need to schedule an appointment for. We could all use less commute time, fewer appointments and less hassle -- Modern Fertility, The Pill Club and Hers give women just that. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.