Why You Should Be Worried About Birth Control

Women are hedging their bets: Here’s how the recently reignited ‘Obamacare’ debate led by President Trump has impacted birth control choices.

by Lara DeSanto Health Writer

While President Trump’s initial attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) failed, he’s not giving up, ramping up his efforts again with promises to replace the health care law if he wins the 2020 election. And the possibility of a repeal has already impacted women’s birth control choices, according to a new study.

One major plus of the ACA? It allows women to get effective forms of birth control, like the intrauterine device (IUD), without having to pay high out-of-pocket costs. But with Trump’s newly reignited promise to get rid of the ACA, which some call Obamacare, many women are worried their access to low-cost birth control will become a thing of the past.

The study, published in Contraception, looked to Google Trends, which tracks internet searches over time. Researchers assessed the number of searches for the three most popular forms of reversible birth control methods, including the IUD, between January 1, 2004, and October 31, 2017, about a year after the 2016 presidential election.

The results were stark: In the year following the 2016 election, there were 10-21 million more searches for IUDs than normal — a 15% increase. The search increase was reflected in all states but Nevada.

"Searches for IUDs reached a record high in May 2017, with 8.3 million total searches that month, when an ACA repeal advanced in the House," said first author of the study Alicia Nobles, Ph.D., a data scientist at UC San Diego, in a press release.

In contrast, internet searches for birth control pills and condoms remained steady or dropped over the year after the election, which study authors say emphasizes the increased interest in IUDs related to the ACA debate.

The IUD Boom Continues

With these ACA debates heating up once again in the lead-up to the 2020 election, the study authors looked to see whether searches had increased in more recent months, too. Spoiler alert: They had.

"Extending our analyses strategy to the week of March 25, 2019, when Trump urged congress to repeal and the Supreme Court to nullify the ACA, we found searches were 15% higher than the previous week," said Nobles.

It seems women are still flocking to the IUD as a way to “hedge against ACA repeal by [seeking] long-term family planning,” Nobles said.

"Trump often extols his support of women and their health on Twitter. Surprisingly, by threatening to take away their birth control benefits, Trump is prompting more women to consider IUDs, the most effective and long-term cost-efficient form of reversible birth control," said study coauthor John. W. Ayers, vice chief of innovation at UC San Diego Medicine.

With so many women in the United States seeking out info on IUDs, the study authors say it’s more important than ever that they stay accessible.

“With millions more than ever voicing their interest in IUDs it is critically important that health policy makers ensure that IUDs remain affordable," Ayers said.

What You Should Know About Getting an IUD

If you’re one of the many U.S. women thinking now’s the time to get yourself an IUD, it’s important to understand the different types currently on the market.

First of all, what is an IUD? It’s pretty simple — it’s a small, T-shaped device made of either plastic or copper that your health care provider inserts into your uterus to prevent pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Once placed, the IUD is more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy for several years.

There’s one type of IUD without hormones — the copper IUD, or ParaGard — and it lasts 10-12 years (pretty amazing, right?).

As for the hormonal IUDs, there are several options: Mirena or Liletta (lasts 5 years,) Skyla (3 years), and Kyleena (5 years). Here’s a handy guide to help you figure out which one is right for you.

Lara DeSanto
Meet Our Writer
Lara DeSanto

Lara is a former digital editor for HealthCentral, covering Sexual Health, Digestive Health, Head and Neck Cancer, and Gynecologic Cancers. She continues to contribute to HealthCentral while she works towards her masters in marriage and family therapy and art therapy. In a past life, she worked as the patient education editor at the American College of OB-GYNs and as a news writer/editor at WTOP.com.