Everything You Need To Know About Birth Control In The Military: Education, Access, And Extra Considerations
The question of whether or not women can receive birth control in the military is a common one. There are plenty of reasons a woman might need birth control, from general prevention of pregnancy to control of menstruation. Periods can make military life a bit tricky, especially while in the field, and it’s not unreasonable to wonder if you can get access to the required methods of stopping your cycle.
The short answer is yes, women in the military have access to all civilian forms of birth control, and most are covered under TRICARE. But you’ll have to buy your own condoms, spermicide, and related products that you might find at a pharmacy. If you’d like to learn more about the different types of contraceptives, each option below is linked to an overview on Mayo Clinic.
Birth Control Methods Covered Under TRICARE
- Contraceptive diaphragms
- Emergency contraceptives (Plan B)
- The pill
- The shot
- The ring
- The patch
- Cervical cap
- The implant (goes in the upper arm)
Keep in mind that, while military members have access to all of these contraceptive methods, not all brands are offered. To be covered, it must be FDA approved, and it still might not be available in your area. Contact your local MTF to see what they offer.
Why Don’t All MTF’s Offer The Same Contraceptives?
There are two kinds of birth control that are offered at every MTF: the pill and emergency contraceptives. Beyond that, you’ll have to get in contact with your local facility to find out which methods they offer. In many cases, you can either order a special delivery of what you need, or just go to a nearby facility that does offer it.
When Can You Get A Prescription Or Appointment?
Women are offered any type of birth control they wish to receive near the end of boot camp. You’ll get a short class on the different types, the pros and cons of each, and you’ll fill out a form detailing what you want. No one is forcing you to get birth control, but it’s there if you want it.
You’ll probably have a bit of trouble accessing birth control throughout the rest of your training pipeline do to time limitations, but the process is much simpler once you get to your first duty station. Simply place a call to your local clinic or hospital, and they should be able to take care of you.
If you’ve never used birth control before, it’ll probably take some experimentation to figure out which method works for you. But when you’re on deployment, you simply won’t have as many options. Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a contraceptive method that will keep up with your needs.
Are you using birth control to stop your period?
Birth control methods that work by manipulating hormones will often shorten or completely stop your period. It’s a huge help in the field when it’s hard to maintain proper hygiene. The pill, shot, hormonal IUD, implant, and ring can accomplish this for you. Bear in mind, though, that every woman reacts differently to hormone changes, which can cause irritability and weight gain – two things you definitely don’t want to deal with, even on a good day.
If possible, experiment with different birth control methods prior to deploying. That way, you can figure out which method works best for you, and avoid any nasty side-effects that you definitely dont want to experience in an already stressful situation.
Does the method require regular maintenance?
The best kind of birth control is one that you can just set and forget, especially when on deployment. Remembering to take a pill every day can be difficult when your days are full of much more pressing matters.
Will you have access to refills?
Not every MTF offers the same birth control methods. When deployed, you’ll have even fewer options. The patch and the pill require regular replenishing, so that’s something to consider.
Are you concerned about your level of privacy?
Many women are uncomfortable with displaying the fact that they’re on birth control. Methods that are privacy-friendly are IUDs, the implant, and the shot. There’s no reason to be shy about it, though. We all know that birth control has applications other than pregnancy prevention. But if you are sexually active, asking about birth control will not get you into trouble. To be clear, the only reason you’d get in trouble for having sex in the military is if you do it in the barracks. If you want more information on this topic, check out this article about dating and relationships in the military.
Overall, birth control is something that every woman in the military should have the option to get. However, studies have shown that women continually face barriers to contraception while on active duty. Sadly, without a complete overhaul of the military medical system, these obstacles will remain in place – namely low availability, long wait times, and lack of education on BC options.
In these situations, persistence is key. Often, you will have to check with multiple MTFs in your area to get the care that you need. As for educating yourself on the types of birth control you have access to, hopefully this article has been a useful tool.
If you have a question about birth control, or anything military-related, post it in the forum!Share this: