Economy impacting women’s health locally, nationally

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A report by the Guttmacher Institute released on Wednesday shows that women are choosing to delay having children due to the recession. At the same time, the cost of family planning and reproductive health services have put a strain on those women’s finances.


The study found that 44 percent of women surveyed are reducing or delaying childbearing due to the economy, and for low income women, that number increases to 53 percent.


Sixty-four percent of women agreed with the statement, “With the economy the way it is, I can’t afford to have a baby right now.” That number jumped to 77 percent for low-income women.


But while women are choosing to delay pregnancy, cost factors are causing some to take risks with birth control.


Among women who are using the birth control pill, 18 percent report inconsistent use because of costs. Some skip pills to stretch out prescriptions, while others delay getting a prescription filled or skipping a month of their prescription. Women employing these techniques because of costs increases to 25 percent among low income women.


One in four women say they have a harder time paying for birth control than in the past and that number is one in three for low income women.


“This basic health care is essential, particularly during difficult economic times, to give women the tools they need to protect and support their families,” said Kathi Di Nicola of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS).


Di Nicola says that PPMNS health services are accessible to Minnesota women regardless of ability to pay. She also said that rural women face greater hardships in accessing birth control.


“For many rural women, access to health care is limited at best, with more than half of Minnesota’s rural counties designated as health professional shortage areas due to an inadequate number of primary care providers,” she said.


That means for Minnesota’s rural women who want to delay having children because of the poor economy, access – both financially and geographically – can be a major obstacle to getting birth control services.


[See the Minnesota Independent’s previous article, “Report: Many rural women in Minnesota lack access to basic health care“]


“Community health providers like Planned Parenthood serve as a critical entry point into the health care system for tens of thousands of Minnesotans. For many women, the only doctor or nurse they see is the one they visit at a health center like Planned Parenthood,” said Di Nicola.


The study’s authors say that the financial barriers to accessing reproductive health care could put women at risk.


“As a result [of the recession], some women appear to be taking chances that could put themselves or their families at risk,” the report says. “We found evidence of women putting off a visit for either regular gynecological care or birth control, and sometimes not using birth control and using methods inconsistently-all in an effort to save money. Women who use these short-term money-saving strategies are at risk for long-term negative consequences, including unintended pregnancy.”





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