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Mass. Planned Parenthood Sees 16-Fold Spike In IUD Demand In Days After Election02:49
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The Planned Parenthood building in Boston (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Planned Parenthood building in Boston (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

On a typical couple of October days, Planned Parenthood clinics in Massachusetts got six online requests for appointments from women who wanted an IUD.

On Wednesday and Thursday after last week's presidential election, they got 97.

And that doesn't even count requests that came in by phone rather than online, says Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts spokesperson Tricia Wajda.

The clinics — collectively the state's largest provider of reproductive and sexual health care — can handle the spike in demand, Wajda says. But "I don't think this surge is a coincidence," she says. "I think it's a reflection of people's concerns for their ability to access the health care that they need."

(+mara/Flickr)
(+mara/Flickr)

The spike in IUD demand came as many a young woman's social media feed lit up with advice to get an IUD now, while Obamacare — which mandates that birth control be covered with no out-of-pocket costs — is still in force. President-elect Trump vowed during his campaign that he would get the health care law repealed, though he has since allowed that some parts of it could be kept.

IUDs, along with hormonal implants, are highly effective, long-acting forms of birth control that can run hundreds of dollars if not covered by insurance. Their popularity has been rising rapidly in recent years, helped along by the Obamacare birth-control mandate, which took effect in 2012. Now, not only is Obamacare imperiled, but concerns are rising about the fate of legal abortion.

So it's understandable that girlfriends are telling girlfriends to run out and get an IUD — or an implant, or a stash of emergency contraception and birth control pills.

But there's no need for a mad dash, says John McDonough, an expert on Obamacare who contributed to its creation and is now a professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

It is indeed likely, he says, that if Obamacare is repealed, that would mean the end of federal requirements that preventive measures — such as birth control — be covered and free.

But, he says, whatever the incoming Congress and White House do, "it is considered highly unlikely that they would instigate policy change that would take effect in the short term." More likely, he says, any coverage changes will be delayed for about two years, while they decide on the replacement for Obamacare.

Much remains uncertain about the Trump administration's health care plans, but Wajda, too, emphasizes that Obamacare remains in force until there's a change in law.

And two other reassurances from Wajda:

• Getting an IUD has become much faster than it used to be. Planned Parenthood clinics in Massachusetts can often provide IUDs on the spot to walk-in patients, Wajda says, and the clinics also offer weekend and evening hours.

• IUDs have also become cheaper than they used to be. And Wajda says the clinics provide birth control whether a patient is covered by insurance or not, and charge on a sliding scale. Whatever happens with politics or insurance coverage, she says, "Our doors stay open."

Also, IUDs and implants are by no means the right birth control for all women. In Europe, where coverage is far less of an obstacle, just 17 percent of women on birth control use IUDs.

Ultimately, Wajda says, whether politics or something else is the impetus, "Any time a person is thinking that they should either get on birth control or consider a different kind, that's a good time for them to come in and talk to their health care provider."

This segment aired on November 15, 2016.

Related:

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.

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