WASHINGTON, D.C. — The day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, millions of women marched in the streets of major cities. In the past few months, there’s been another, quieter march that’s more personal, yet still political.
Since the election, women have been seeing their gynecologists and visiting Planned Parenthood offices specifically to ask about birth control, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Why the rush? For starters, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, as Trump has promised, contraceptives could get more expensive. Since 2012, the ACA has required private health insurance plans cover prescription contraceptives with no cost-sharing for patients.
But cost isn’t the only concern. Women see a Congress threatening to defund Planned Parenthood, a vice president who has promised to restrict access to abortion, a Supreme Court nominee who could be hostile to women’s health care — and they want to do whatever they can to avoid an unplanned pregnancy in the next few years.
For some, the best options are an intrauterine device, or IUD, a small T-shaped device inserted into the uterus, or Nexplanon, a hormonal implant that goes in the arm. Aside from being the most effective forms of reversible birth control on the market — with failure rates of less than 1 percent — they have another attractive selling point: For most women with health insurance, they’re free. And certain versions can outlast a presidency.
Dr. Sabrina Holmquist, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago, estimated the number of requests for IUDs at the medical center has doubled since the election.
“(Women) will say, ‘I’m worried I won’t be able to get it,'” said Holmquist, adding that some students are opting for long-lasting IUDs that can work for a decade.
Health-care providers and analysts are quick to note that the use of IUDs and Nexplanon — which can last from three to 12 years — was growing long before Trump was elected. But, health providers add, a lot of women are concerned about losing benefits and are making long-term decisions as a result. When faced with uncertainty over coverage and access to care, they’re choosing the most certain yet reversible option.
A report last month found a 19 percent increase in the number of doctors’ visits related to IUDs from October to December 2016. Planned Parenthood said IUD use has grown 91 percent in the past five years, with a steeper spike recently.
“In the first week after the election, Planned Parenthood saw a significant increase in appointments for birth control, with a nearly tenfold increase in people seeking IUDs — and we continue to see higher than average numbers,” Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
Some women who were on the daily pill, monthly Nuvaring or quarterly hormonal injection have decided to move to long-term birth control while it’s still covered. For the past five years, Rebecca Ullrich, a 28-year-old policy analyst in Washington, was on the Nuvaring, a contraceptive ring that sits inside the vagina and is replaced every month.
“I really liked the medication I was on,” Ullrich said, but the Nuvaring would be about $90 a month if it weren’t covered by her insurance.
The week after the election, she had her annual exam and asked her gynecologist about getting an IUD. The next month, she got a Mirena, an IUD that lasts for five years. Mirena was completely covered by her insurance. “It’s just nice to know that I’m not going to have to worry about that expense,” she said, but added that Mirena isn’t quite as good at controlling her menstrual cramps as the Nuvaring was.
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