Thursday, September 24, 2009

Family Planning in Hard Times

A new Guttmacher survey suggests 64% of women feel that, economically speaking, now is not a good time to have children. The report, A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Decisions, found that nearly half of women surveyed have decided to delay childbearing. It also found that 29% of women surveyed are trying to be more careful about using contraception each time they have sex.

However, women also report more difficulty paying for contraception. 8% of women surveyed said th
ey were inconsistent with contraceptive use to save money. 18% of women using the Pill said they were skipping pills or taking them inconsistently. An article from the US News and World Report offered some suggestions to help women and their partners save money on contraception without risking unintended pregnancy:

1. Ask your doctor about generic contraception. Switching from a name-brand pill to a generic brand can cut your monthly costs from $50 to less than $10, a value offered in some drugstores. Your doctor will have to specify on your prescription that you'd prefer a generic version.

2. See if you qualify for subsidized birth control. Your county health department or a family planning clinic like Planned Parenthood may offer reduced-rate birth control for financially pressed women. About 20 states have implemented free family planning services for low-income folks, typically defined as an income of $37,000 for a family of three or $21,000 for a single woman.

3. Ask your partner to pick up some of the financial responsibility. This may not be relevant for married folks with combined finances, but nearly half the women surveyed were single. There's no reason a male partner shouldn't foot half the bill for your birth control since he'll be on the hook for child-rearing costs if you become pregnant and have the baby.

4. Check your insurance plan for savings. Some plans cover the cost of an IUD insertion or surgical sterilization but not the monthly cost of birth control pills. If you and your gynecologist decide those are appropriate options for you, "even if you have to absorb some of the costs," says Lindberg, "the one-time payment may end up costing you less in the long run than the monthly fee for oral contraceptives."

5. Take a long-term perspective. Sure, you might save a few dollars by forgoing contraception now, but it will cost a lot more down the road—in dollars and stress— if you have an unintended pregnancy.

One thing I'd like to add is, don't discount latex condoms as a reliable method of pregnancy prevention if you must quit taking hormonal contraception, or cannot take it at all due to a health condition (stroke risk, former cancer, etc). When used properly, condoms have been shown to reduce pregnancy and STD infection risk by 98% (follow these guidelines for correct usage information). Condoms are inexpensive (if bought in bulk, they amount to less than $1 per condom), and are offered for free at many community health centers, Planned Parenthood clinics, college health clinics, and some high schools.

If you do become pregnant unintentionally, our resource page has a variety of information regarding pregnancy options. Financial assistance may be available for you if you choose abortion, and there are many programs nationwide that help women and their partners pay for prenatal, childbirth, and pediatric care should you choose to parent.

One final thought, since we're fast entering cold and flu season: if you are prescribed antibiotics for any sort of infection, know that many of these can reduce the effectiveness of hormonal contraception. A comprehensive list of medications that may reduce effectiveness can be found here.

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