How to keep your birth control prescription between you and your pharmacist.
Note: the answers in this post apply only to the United States. Sorry!
Short answer: There are ways to keep your health decisions private. You parents could easily find out from the insurance company (find out how to contact the insurance company directly - see below), but usually not from a doctor or healthcare provider.
Insurance companies send summaries of recent services to their policyholders. That means if you visit a clinic, get an exam, or get a prescription for birth control, it’ll be sent in the regular policy communications your parent gets, or available online if your parent manages their policy electronically. Basically, your parents can get some basic information about any activity that happens using their insurance. Since birth control (other than condoms) requires a prescription or office visit, you won’t be able to go under the radar *and* use their insurance for the visit or to pick up the prescription.
But don’t give up! It’s awesome that you are committed to your reproductive health. Luckily, we’ve got a list of ways to get birth control without your parents knowing:
HeyDoctor can help you get an online consultation and prescribe you birth control if medically appropriate, even without insurance. We can help you find a good, low-cost option. We think that’s the best way, but of course we’re biased. (Important note: If you go to a pharmacy you've used before, contact them *before* we send over the prescription to make sure they know not to bill your insurance, and if you're a minor, double-check that the pharmacy doesn’t contact your parents.)
Ask your insurance company
Some insurance companies have procedures for keeping patient information private from the policyholder. To figure out if yours does, give your insurance company a call. This post has some great tips to walk you through questions you might ask when you call, and ways your insurance might work with you.
Talk to your doctor
Unless you give explicit permission, doctors are legally prohibited from discussing your care with anyone but you if you’re over 18. They might have samples they can give you (although the key to birth control is consistency), or ways to handle a consultation such that it’s not recorded as relating to contraception. Even if they can’t help, they’ll know who can, and they can also discuss sexual health and safety with you if you have questions.
They might also be able to prescribe you birth control for other reasons, or at least talk to your parents about those other reasons. There are a lot of legit therapeutic reasons for birth control as well, such as acne control and regulating irregular or painful periods.
Minors: Check the law in your state. In some states, a doctor can (but is not required to) discuss your healthcare with your parent. In others, they legally cannot prescribe you birth control without a parent’s consent. This interactive map has lots of great information about the laws in each state. Know your rights!
Title X Clinics
There are many clinics that can help you get birth control without insurance. This can occasionally be costly, but many places offer options for birth control for free or at a reduced cost. Most if not all clinics will need to schedule an exam with you first. They’re called ‘Title X’ clinics, because Title X is the federal law that provides funding for reproductive health services, and these clinics are funded by that law. You’ve probably heard of Planned Parenthood, but there are other clinics that provide similar services. You can find your closest Planned Parenthood here, and there’s a list of all Title X clinics here.
Minors: In many states, you can get a prescription for birth control without a parent’s consent. In some states, you must have a parent’s consent, and in others, the doctor has the option of telling your parent. This will be the same whether you to a clinic or your regular doctor. The best way to find out what options are available to you is to call a clinic and ask. Check out this map for more in-depth info on your state.
Consider talking to your parents
I know, I know… why would you even be reading this if you felt like talking to your parents? But do think about doing it: it’s definitely a hard conversation, but many parents would rather honesty than pregnancy. If the only thing stopping you is the difficulty of the topic, consider that being able to communicate openly, honestly, and accurately about sex—whether it’s with your doctor, your partner, your parents, or your friends—is mandatory for a healthy and safe sex life.
Of course, it may truly be unwise to talk to your parents — only you can make that choice. If you feel it would be actually dangerous to talk to them, please remember to do things like delete browser history on shared computers, and pay attention to bank statements that may indicate where you spent money. Consider finding another adult you trust to help you — don’t go through these difficult decisions on your own!
This is probably going to require a phone call or two on your part, but it can definitely be done. The service providers here will be the experts on how they can help you. As with everything relating to sexual health: be proactive, know your rights, and don’t go it alone!