Beyond the Headlines: Trending Conversations and Insights
The ripple effect of the 2022 SCOTUS decision, including evolving and oftentimes confusing legislation, inconsistent access to care, affordability, and inaccurate information has impacted so many people across the country.
These “ripples” directly affect sexual and reproductive healthcare clinicians who are providing patients with critical attention, resources, and counsel. Now more than ever, it’s our responsibility as clinicians to keep a pulse on the ever-changing environment, so we can build trust, myth-bust, and educate patients through an open dialogue that empowers them to take charge of their health.
As a practicing OB/GYN for 22 years and Afaxys’ VP of Medical Affairs, I would like to share my insights on sexual and reproductive health, including contraception – and some of the trends that will not only help shape decisions for my patients but also inform the decisions taken by my company and the industry.
Changes in Public Policy
Sexual and reproductive health legislation is primarily determined at the state level. (It can be confusing and overwhelming to decipher proposed legislation and understand the full impact across 50 states!) Recent changes include:
- Enablement of pharmacists to prescribe and dispense reproductive medicines like hormonal contraception. There are currently 20 US states, plus Washington, D.C., that allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control, and there are reportedly another 10 states with pending legislation. While the uptake of these policies varies by state and by pharmacy, this change may allow greater and potentially easier access to key reproductive medicines.
- Threat to the future of health centers and access to a broad range of contraception. In certain states, changes in policy and funding have either forced public and community health centers to close, or created a burden on available resources. This greatly impacts access to sexual and reproductive products and services. More than 19 million women already live in a contraceptive desert, an area where women who need publicly funded birth control do not have reasonable access to a health center offering a full range of contraceptive methods, and over 1 million of these women live in counties across the US without a single health center that provides the full range of contraceptive methods.
Reconsidering Contraceptive Options
Oral contraception is one of the most familiar and commonly used contraceptive options, but over the past decade or so, the conversation has shifted to focus on newer non-daily methods and long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs). In light of the Dobbs decision, there has been renewed focus on permanent options such as tubal ligation and vasectomy.
- Power to Decide conducted a total of 1,027 interviews via a web and telephone survey of adults ages 18 to 29 from October 7, 2022, to October 10, 2022. The results support the notion that women (50%) are concerned about future access to birth control. Will this concern cause women to choose a different method in the future? Time will tell.
- The 2022 Kaiser Family Foundation Women’s Health Survey of 5,201 reproductive aged (18 – 49) females that used contraception in the prior 12 months, found intrauterine devices (IUDs) were one of the most commonly used methods.
- Harris Poll, on behalf of TIME, conducted an online survey from July 15, 2022, to July 18, 2022, with 1,686 respondents aged 18-44. According to the survey, a notable portion of women are now considering using emergency contraception (20%) and permanent forms of birth control (14%).
As clinicians, it’s important for us to listen to the individual needs of our patients, understand their current lifestyle, and address their concerns to help counsel and educate them on what the best options may be. For example, what works for a patient in her twenties may not be the best option in her forties.
It’s also important for all professionals in the healthcare space to continue to encourage patients to educate themselves through trustworthy sources such as Power to Decide, Bedsider, Guttmacher Institute, and the FDA.
Afaxys is passionate about empowering physicians and their patients through information, which is why our experts also seek to break down complex topics. Keep a pulse on the Afaxys Media Center to learn more from our leaders and subject matter experts.