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Recession influencing women’s decisions on childbearing

The recession is having a profound effect on women’s decisions about childbearing and contraception, according to a report issued earlier this week by the Guttmacher Institute.

More than 40 percent of the 947 women (aged 18 to 34) surveyed for the report said they intended to delay childbearing until the economy recovers — or even to not have any more children at all.

Women experiencing the worse financial problems (and 52 percent said they were financially worse off this year than last) and those with the lowest household incomes (below $25,000 a year) were the ones most likely to report having changed their minds regarding when and if they’ll get pregnant.

Given that so many of the surveyed women wanted to avoid pregnancy, it’s no surprise that about a third reported being more diligent about using contraception each time they had sex. Some said they were even changing their choice of contraception, opting for long-acting (and, thus, more likely to be in use at the critical moment) methods, such as the intrauterine device (IUD).

Unfortunately, however, money worries are causing some of the women who don’t want to get pregnant right now to cut back on their birth control. For example, 18 percent of the women in the survey who use birth control pills said they were skipping pills or delaying getting a prescription filled — all in an effort to save money.

Equally troubling was the finding that nearly one in four women said they had put off a gynecological or birth control visit during the past year to save money.

“The ongoing recession in the United States has altered the economic realities of many families’ lives,” concluded the report, “and it has dramatically reshaped the environment in which people make, and try to act upon, decisions about their reproductive lives.”

A similar story in Minnesota
The survey’s findings came as no shock to the staff of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota (PPMNS).

“We’re seeing the shift in the economy affect women and their health care decisions,” says Kathi Di Nicola, director of media relations at PPMNS.

From Red Wing to Rochester, the number of Minnesota women seeking Planned Parenthood’s health-care services is up, she says — and a lot of those women have been laid off or are worried about being laid off.

“At some of our clinics, our nurse practitioners say they’re seeing two to three women a day who are unemployed or who are working cut-back hours,” says Di Nicola.

The women come to Planned Parenthood for a host of health care services, including routine gynecological exams, preventive screening for breast and cervical cancer, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, as well as contraception advice. The fees for the organization’s health care services are on a sliding scale.

Minnesota women, like those in the national Guttmacher survey, are increasingly requesting long-lasting methods of birth control, reports Di Nicola. “We’ve seen a 54 percent increase in IUD use in the last year alone,” she says.

As for the survey’s finding that many women are being inconsistent with their birth control in order to save money, Di Nicola says she understands why those women may be doing that.

“I think for many women it comes down to pretty fundamental choices — birth control, groceries or utility bills,” she says. “And many women, we find, put their health concerns last.”

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