In an uncertain healthcare landscape: things to know about birth control options

In the wake of the new Presidential administration, and with a Congress that has announced its intention of restricting reproductive healthcare rights, a major area of concern has been what effect the new administration will have on the country’s healthcare. In particular, the sense that reproductive healthcare – especially access to birth control – will be under threat has been of primary concern. In the days immediately after the election, lots of people online were cautioning those in need of birth control to get an intrauterine device (IUD) – a long-lasting form of birth control that could cover you through the presidential term -- as soon as possible. 
While it is still unclear what the full implications will be on any of these areas, what we do know is that the President made several pro-life promises on the campaign trail and the Vice President-elect has a dismal history of rolling back reproductive rights as Governor of Indiana. Understandably, some people have been feeling the pressure to make sure they are covered, before any significant changes to health insurance coverage or birth control access take place.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) requires that insurance plans cover all FDA-approved birth control methods without an out-of-pocket cost.  As we mentioned in a previous post, it is unlikely that the ACA could be repealed overnight. At Mazzoni Center, we are committed to helping our patients choose the best option for them, and if you are looking to secure birth control methods, here are some options to consider:
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
The IUD is the main form of birth control being advocated in the wake of the election because it is one of a few methods of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). These types of devices can last for long periods of time without daily or monthly upkeep, but pregnancy can occur right away once the device is removed. An IUD is a T-shaped plastic device inserted into the uterus by a health care provider, which can be removed at any time. There are a range of IUDs currently on the market, including hormonal options – typically with the hormone progestin – or non-hormonal copper options. IUDs have been shown to be over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy and can last from 3-12 years. Progestin IUDs can also be used to effectively and safely stop bleeding for those looking to control their cycle.
Birth Control Implant
Another LARC method is the birth control implant, a small plastic rod that is inserted by a health care provider under the skin of the upper arm and releases progestin to prevent pregnancy. The implant is also over 99% effective and is designed to last for 3 years, though it can also be removed at any time. There is no non-hormonal option for the implant. 
Birth Control Pill
The birth control pill is a safe, effective, and non-invasive way to prevent pregnancy and regulate menstrual cycles. Pills are distributed in monthly packs and taken daily, typically with a week of placebo pills at the end to trigger bleeding that mimics a  normal menstrual cycle. The pills usually contain a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin, though there are progestin-only options as well.
Birth Control Ring
The birth control ring is a small plastic ring that is self-inserted into the vagina, which releases a combination of estrogen and progestin over the course of three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, the ring is removed for one week and a new ring is inserted. A benefit of the ring is its lower estrogen dose compared to the patch and some pills.
Birth Control Patch
The birth control patch is another combined estrogen/progestin method consisting of a patch that is placed on the skin and replaced weekly for three weeks. After the third week, you take one week off before applying a new patch.
The pill, patch, and ring all have about a 91% effectiveness rate.
Condoms are an easily accessible birth control method that doesn’t require a prescription, and therefore would not be affected by any changes to healthcare in the new administration. Mazzoni Center offers both internal and external condoms, which can (and should!) be used even with other forms of birth control to protect against STIs.
We believe that patients should be empowered to make these very personal decisions for themselves, informed by accurate medical advice. This holds true, whether it’s deciding on a birth control method or decisions about pregnancy. We will keep patients posted on any changes in access to contraception and help you explore your options on your own terms.
At Mazzoni Center Family & Community Medicine, we offer a range of birth control methods, including IUDs and birth control implants. We accept most major insurance plans and provide these services for people without insurance on a sliding scale.  If you’re not a current Mazzoni patient or are not in the Philadelphia area, check with your health care provider about your options or call Mazzoni’s medical practice at 215-563-0658.

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