Can I buy BC pills while on vacation in Mexico?
January 19, 2017 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Will I get in trouble bringing them back over the border?

I'm going on vacation to Mexico this weekend. I'll only be there a few days. I'm currently not pregnant or trying to get pregnant. But I'm also NOT on any hormonal birth control and in a relationship, so I'm a little concerned about Zika. I know birth control pills are over the counter in Mexico, so I was thinking about going to a pharmacy as soon as I arrive, buying a month's worth, and taking them while on vacation and after returning home to be extra pre-cautious.

Are there any problems with this plan that I'm not thinking of? Am I allowed to bring the pills back over the border?

Thanks for the help.
posted by ohsnapdragon to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have no idea of the legality of it, but realistically, if you have a pack of birth control pills in your washbag, in your checked luggage, that is not going to look at all interesting to customs.

But a month's worth is not really enough, since birth control doesn't work immediately. Its a long time since I used it, but I seem to remember you have to wait a month before it becomes active, and use another form of contraception in the meantime.
posted by Joh at 9:14 AM on January 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

Customs and Border Patrol has a blog post stating they can and will confiscate prescription meds without a valid US prescription. Will they care or notice birth control? I cannot say.

I do want to correct the above: birth control doesn't work immediately, but it's more like 2 days (progestin only pills/mini pill) to 7 days (combination pills) to be effective.

However, the current interim CDC guidance on Zika suggest that men should avoid conceiving (and transmission) via condom use for 6 month after symptom onset (if symptomatic) or possible Zika exposure (if asymptomatic), or 8 weeks for women (symptom onset or exposure). (So, it may be prudent to be extra pre-cautious for 6 months if your husband is also going to Mexico with you, or 8 weeks if it's just you).
posted by smangosbubbles at 9:54 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you just use condoms for a few days?
posted by greta simone at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

You would be amazed what you can buy over the counter in Mexico just by speaking to a pharmacist, who will probably speak English. Even in the departure hall of the Cancun airport there is a "pharmacy" kiosk that advertises Viagra and a bunch of other stuff I didn't recognize. But are you sure you're a good candidate for hormonal birth control? Not a pharmacist, but there are contraindications and it does take time to work. I wouldn't rely on it. Backup method and start once you get back seems like the easiest to me, but definitely in consultation with a pharmacist who is considering the factors involved, at minimum. It's true there is a lot of bullshit with OBGyns and birth control, but in this case the situation sounds like it's complicated enough to warrant a consultation. Your doctor can also call/fax in a prescription to a non-US pharmacy and you could pick it up there, thus attaining the prescription even if you don't have time to fill it before you leave. Hope you have a great time!
posted by wnissen at 11:22 AM on January 19, 2017

I just came back from Mexico and my traveling companion did just this.
She bought 2 months but I think she could have bought many months worth. I think it was about $12 per pack and probably more expensive than at a pharmacy in town.
She bought it in the Cancun airport but we also searched pharmacies in Playa Del Carmen.
Each pharmacy offered different pills - if there is one you want figure out what name it is marketed with in Mexico. Most of them were called women's names.

If it is illegal to bring it back, I have no idea.
But we were never questioned if we were bringing back any over the counter or prescribed drugs. You may also be able to FedEx them home to yourself. Not sure if that's legal either but.
posted by littlewater at 11:58 AM on January 19, 2017

You can order it online for $20 a pack in the US, and get approved for the prescription online: They ship it to you in packs of three months, so it might work well for you since you can start ahead of time to wait for the effectiveness , and then have a couple months extra for the waiting period. Not sure if it's convenience, avoiding an office visit, or price that's making you want to buy in Mexico but this option might tick some of your boxes.
posted by sometamegazelle at 2:03 PM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

The CDC recommends that women who have been exposed to Zika wait 6 weeks before trying to conceive and men who have been exposed wait 6 months before having unprotected sex (I would link but I'm on my phone).

Is your partner going on the trip as well?

I think it would be safer to use condoms for a period of time and/or get tested for Zika.

Sometimes birth control pills can have annoying side effects, especially in the first three months, so I'd be considering whether it's worth going through them if it turns out that you're not following the appropriate advice for your situation.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 2:37 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was just in Los algadones specifically to get meds. You are allowed to buy and bring back a 3 month personal supply of non-controlled medications. So no narcotics or benzodiazepines and I guess they get weird about cipro but birth control would be fine. Our group bought antibiotics, cardiac meds, anti-virals, viagra and lasix. We all declared our purchases at the border and no one had any issues at all.
posted by yodelingisfun at 3:42 PM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure how this affects what is or is not legal to bring into this country from Mexico -- but it's definitely OK to have birth control without a prescription in the US. I can get the pill directly dispensed by a pharmacist here in Oregon without a doctor's prescription, and I am not worried that the TSA is going to seize it if I fly to New York, where prescriptions are required.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:54 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

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