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You can now get birth control from your pharmacist in California

Photo by Phoney Nickle via Flickr Creative Commons

Attention California women: You can now get birth control pills directly from the pharmacist at your local drugstore, without a prescription from your doctor.

The state Board of Pharmacy Friday adopted regulations that authorize pharmacists to dispense hormonal contraceptives that you administer yourself, including pills, shots, vaginal rings and skin patches. The change is in a 2013 state law, but it couldn't take effect until the pharmacy board sorted out the regulations. (You can also get contraceptives from pharmacists in Oregon, Washington State and Washington, D.C.)

The goal is to increase women's access to birth control and reduce unplanned pregnancies.

Here's what it means for you:

Who is eligible to get birth control at a pharmacy?

There is no age restriction on who can get hormonal contraceptives from a pharmacist.

What is the process for getting birth control at a pharmacy?

The pharmacist will ask you to complete a questionnaire with your medical history. The pharmacist might also take your blood pressure, if the contraceptive you're requesting poses a risk of high blood pressure.

Before providing you with the birth control, the pharmacist will make sure you know how to use it and will discuss its effectiveness, potential side effects and the importance of receiving other preventive health screenings. The pharmacist will also note that hormonal contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

If birth control is not available at the pharmacy, or if the pharmacist determines you're not a good candidate for birth control, he will refer you to another health care provider for follow-up care.

What if I want to get an IUD?

You'll still have to visit a doctor to get an IUD or a contraceptive implant, as these require medical procedures.

How much will birth control cost at a pharmacy?

All birth control should be covered by insurance, according to the Affordable Care Act. Some pharmacies may charge an additional fee for the assessment services provided by the pharmacist, according to Kathleen Hill-Besinque, an associate professor at the USC School of Pharmacy.

Can I get birth control at any pharmacy?

You should call ahead to your local pharmacy before going there to get birth control, advises Hill-Besinque. She says the law doesn't require pharmacies in California to provide birth control prescriptions. Pharmacies that do choose to offer them might take a couple of weeks to ramp up.