Trump has American women scrambling for IUDs, but the panic may be premature

Trump has American women scrambling for IUDs, but the panic may be premature

SexNovember 11, 2016 By Isabelle Kohn

Not many presidential elections have culminated with millions of women across the country scrambling to insert things into their vaginas, but, this election was never really business-as-usual, was it?

Perhaps that's the reason why American women are in an almighty rush to get IUDs before the least female-friendly president in recent history ascends the throne.

All across the nation, women are taking to social media to express their fears about their future access to contraception and to seek information about what their options will be under the Trump regime. Yesterday, Google Trends showed a massive peak in searches for "IUD," "birth control" and "Planned Parenthood" as those of us with an extra X chromosome clambered for answers.

There's been a rush on sexual health centers, too.

NPR called over a dozen regional Planned Parenthood divisions across the country, all of whom reported more women than ever calling in to book appointments and ask questions about IUDs than ever before.

We spoke with Whitney Philips, the spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, who confirmed this. She told us that while hard numbers haven't been counted yet for clinics in her region, she's seen a surge of concerned social media posts by women who are scared a Trump presidency will take away their reproductive rights.

This begs the question: what's so great about IUDs? Why are women gravitating towards that method of birth control?

Well, IUDs, in addition to being 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, are also long-lasting. They're good to go for between 3-10 years, depending on which type you get. We're not astrophysicist-surgeons or anything, but that seems about long enough to outlast the Trump administration.

That endurance is a convenience that takes on a certain significance in a upside-down world where our president-elect has vowed to both gut Obamacare, which currently requires insurers to cover IUDs and other contraception, and cut funding for abortion and reproductive health overall.

Trump has released forth from his tiny, pointy mouth a fair amount of bullshit during his campaign, but his promise to dismantle reproductive options isn't something women or health care providers are taking lightly.

Dr. Anne Davis, consulting medical director for Physicians for Reproductive Health and an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, also told NPR that on Wednesday, six women called "in a panic" to schedule IUD insertions. Normally, only about one woman schedules an IUD appointment per day, she said.

She also said these women didn't want an IUD sometime in the future ... they wanted one right about now.

"They were very, very scared and distraught that they would lose access to birth control," said Davis.

So, instead of sitting around and waiting to see what happens to their reproductive rights, women are getting proactive.

"I booked an appointment with my gynecologist the instant North Carolina went red," Kate McPhillips, a young professional in Boston, posted to her Facebook page Wednesday morning. She's wrote that she's considering the copper IUD, a handy little device that lasts for 10 to 12 years, "just in case the unimaginable happens."

Emily Lookabaugh, a senior account executive for our magazine, is all over that too.

After researching the Trump/Pence platform — and receiving a particularly worried call from her mother the morning after the election — she made the decision that she needed an IUD before January ... despite the fact that many of her friends have had problems with them.

"I’d thought about getting one before the election, but I’d heard so many bad stories from friends who’ve gotten them that I never took the plunge," she told us. "One of my best friends got one and she had a lot of complications. But now, with Trump in office, it’s a different story. That made me think about it pretty strongly."

Emily's concerns aren't unwarranted. Although IUDs are incredibly efficacious contraceptives, they’re not without side effects. Many women do, in fact, have IUD horror stories — reports of negative repercussions from the device, including uterine punctures, heavy bleeding, headaches, nausea, dizziness, irregular periods, jaundice, severe pain, mood changes, loss of libido, weight gain, acne and confusion aren't unheard of.

Yet, while those side effects are rare, and most women tolerate IUDs just fine, the sheer fact that Lookabaugh is willing to take the risk at all is a pretty strong indication of how Trump's commitment to dismantling female health care is making women feel desperate and not in control.

Nevertheless, Emily's willing to bite the bullet if it means she can maintain control over her own body. She says that if she has a bad reaction, then so be it.

“If I have a bad reaction, I’ll get it taken out. I’ve had friends that have had to do that, but I would rather take the chance that it does work than to  not even try," she says. "I’m doing this because I’m preparing for the worst. It’s better to be prepared than to be caught unawares."

"To be caught unawares," in this sense, means pregnancy. And with Trump's ultra pro-life stance and promise to overturn Roe v. Wade, it would surprise no one if he made the termination of that pregnancy illegal ... or, at the very least, even more expensive and difficult to access.

... Well, we suppose now would be a good time to talk about how IUDs prevent don't just prevent pregnancy; they also prevent abortion.

In a landmark study in Colorado on the effect of IUDs on abortion and teen pregnancy rates, The Colorado Family Planning Initiative found that free IUDs reduce abortion by an un-ignorable 42 percent (and also, teen pregnancy by 40 percent).

It would seem then, that anyone interested in the pro-life stance, would be in support of contraceptives like IUDs.

Unfortunately, we're not all privileged with that (easily Googleable) intelligence.

Valid concerns here, you guys. But, for all the ladies out there, we hope the following information helps a little: you might have more time to get an IUD than you think.

While memes and social media posts suggest that January 21 is the cutoff for contraceptives, the reality is that women still have the entirety of 2017 to access copay-free birth control. Insurance plans already purchased for 2017 will likely still be honored, and, as Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell tweeted, signups at Obamacare's healthcare.gov site for 2017 coverage have spiked since the election.

Plus — government is a slow-moving beast. Political bureaucracy isn't exactly know for its speed, so rest assured that no one will automatically lose their coverage the moment Trump steps into the White House.

However, even though women won't lose access to contraceptives once the clock strikes January 21, Davis says women should still take action soon.

"This isn't something to put off, and if you're on corporate insurance sometimes it takes a while for IUDs to be ordered. If you need a long-acting form of birth control, you need to take care of that now," she told NPR.

And if you don't? You'll still be able to access contraception even post-Trump — it's not going to vanish into thin air.

You can bet your sweet ass it'll be a shit ton more expensive, though.

For the uninsured — of which there will be 22 million if Trump repeals Obamacare — the average cost of an IUD ranges between $175 and $600 for a consultation, insertion and follow-up appointment. For patients covered by private or employer insurance, out-of-pocket costs will likely include a copay of $10 to $30 for the initial doctors' visit and a similar copay for the insertion, or a percentage of the total cost, usually about 20 percent.

Good news, though: You don't need insurance to get an IUD at Planned Parenthood. Their service fees have, and always will operate on a sliding scale.

"We do negotiate price based on a patient's income, and that's something we do any time someone comes in for a birth control consultation," Philips told us.

So, even if you lose copay-free birth control under Trump, there are still health care providers out there that will work with you. You're not going to be abandoned.

Of course, fears about women's future access to contraception also has many women asking if it's possible to stockpile the abortion pill or contraceptives like Plan B Y2K-style.

We'll let Philips take that one.

"You can’t stockpile the abortion pill, but some state's health plans allow women to access multiple months of birth control at once," she tells us. "But, you can buy Plan B over the counter. That’s not something I believe will be going away anytime soon."

We confirmed with pharmacists from both Rite-Aid and Walgreens that you can buy as much Plan B as your little heart desires in one purchase ... so if you're looking to stockpile something, this bud's for you.

Philips also has soothing words for those worried the Trump/Pence hydra will make good on their promise of repealing Roe v. Wade, the historic 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion under certain circumstances and recognized a woman's right to make her own health decisions outside the oversight of the federal government.

"We do not have any reason to believe that Roe v. Wade would be overturned," she says. "There’s not a lot of precedent for that in the Supreme Court. If it were to happen, it would actually go back to the states. Plus, federal funding already doesn’t go towards abortions, so cutting funding wouldn’t necessarily lead to a huge change in that area."

However, she does warn that, embedded in Trump's pro-life, anti-Planned Parenthood platform is an attack not just on abortion but on women's health in general: "What Trump is saying when says he wants to cut funding for Planned Parenthood is that he doesn’t want state or federal money paying us for our services. That doesn’t just cut abortions though; that cuts screenings for cervical cancer, breast cancer and STDs, well-woman care, annual pap smears and birth control," she says.

In fact, just a measly three percent of Planned Parenthood funds go to abortion-related services. The other 97 percent keeps women from having to get abortions in the first place, or from dying from cancer and syphilis.

... Although women not dying from easily preventable diseases doesn't really seem to be a major concern for Trump or Pence.

Yeesh. Well, at the very least, despite all this panic and turmoil, there's still an unexpected silver lining and quite an impressive amount of optimism and resolve on the part of the people who work to preserve a woman's right to rule her own biological domain.

Phillips agrees it's possible that Trump's threat to reproductive health could actually motivate women to be more proactive about things like contraception and screenings. And as we've seen above, it already has. Although American women are scrambling to get IUDs in the wake of the election, at least they're getting IUDs. Barring any poor reactions or intolerable side effects, that's a smart, thoughtful and health-conscious decision if you're not looking to reproduce right this second. And in a world where a lot of things suck right now, that realization sure sucks less.

And as for the future of sexual health and women's reproductive services under the impending Trump regime?

Philips isn't worried.

"Planned Parenthood has been around for 100 years," she says. "In that time, we’ve weathered a lot. We’ve gone through friendly administrations and we’ve gone through some really unfriendly administrations. It’s been worse out there for women at multiple points over those hundred years and we’re still open. We're still here. We have zero intentions of going anywhere and you can be damn sure we’re going to fight like hell."

Our uteri just got goosebumps.