A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Decisions

A new Guttmacher report finds that, not surprisingly, the recession has been impacting women’s decisions about birth control and family planning.

After months of anecdotal reports, a survey released today provides the first hard evidence of the recession’s impact on women’s contraceptive use and childbearing decisions. Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute found that because of current economic concerns, nearly half of women surveyed want to delay pregnancy or limit the number of children they have—and for about half of these women, the recession has heightened the focus on effective contraceptive use. But for many, economic hardship means having to skimp on their contraceptive use, for example, by stretching their monthly supply of pills or shifting to a less expensive method—or not using birth control at all—in order to save money. Nearly one in four women have put off a gynecologic or birth control visit in the past year to save money, and the same proportion report having a harder time paying for birth control than they did in the past.

The reportA Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Decisions found that more than one in four women surveyed or their partners have lost jobs or health insurance in the past year, and that 52% say they are financially worse off than they were a year ago. Not surprisingly, more than half of the women surveyed worry more now about their ability to take care of their children. Among those who say they are financially worse off, three-quarters voice this concern.

9 comments for “A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Decisions

  1. Gembird
    September 23, 2009 at 8:46 am

    And that’s yet another reason why the US needs ‘socialised’ healthcare.

    I’m English, and I get my birth control pills free of charge, just like every other woman who gets them on the NHS. My doctor’s appointments are free when I go back for my check-up and repeat prescription. When I start having smear tests (which we don’t get until the age of 25- bloody ridiculous) they will also be free, unless I choose to go private.

    I find it shcoking that women can’t afford to look after their reproductive health and choices in the USA because of the way the healthcare system works- as in, you don’t really have much of a system.

  2. emme
    September 23, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Yes indeed. Guttmacher Inst. does some useful research. I’m a researcher, a midwife and woman’s health nurse practitioner in NY, and in my work I’ve seen how hard it is becoming for women to hold things together- exacerbated by economic woes. Yet in my view, when we support women, the effects radiate out and help all people and sectors- often investment in women is the most efficient thing we can do. Besides, I care about women, so helping them and trusting them is more than the right thing to do, it’s a calling.

  3. sal
    September 24, 2009 at 8:14 am


    It is difficult to believe the results of this study, since birth control is virtually free already in the United States. Even if you are uninsured, a month’s supply of pills can be obtained for $10/month from major pharmacies. I think everyone knows this. Free clinics exist for those who cannot afford essential checkups.

    And even if it were not already basically free — I cannot imagine what someone is “saving” money for by cutting back on birth control and their reproductive health?

  4. September 24, 2009 at 10:23 am

    …why do I suspect Sal has never bought birth control?

    No, Sal, it’s not “virtually free,” and you cannot simply obtain a month’s supply of pills for $10 at the pharmacy. To get birth control pills, you need a prescription, which means paying a visit to a doctor — not free. And once you have that prescription, a month’s supply of birth control is closer to $50 if you don’t have insurance cutting the cost. So, true again.

  5. September 24, 2009 at 10:29 am

    plus there’s the whole part about dealing with potential side effects. With insurance I could have $25/month bc that made me spend more money getting more prescriptions for the depression and migraines that the bc aggrevated. Or I could spend $60/month on the one specific birth control that didn’t cause me to have side effects.
    I also know several men and women who are allergic to latex. So stocking up on condoms whenever you happen to be at or near a place that hands them out for free isn’t an option for eaveryone either.

  6. sal
    September 24, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Jill: No, I have never bought birth control pills for myself, since I’m a guy, but I have discussed this with my girlfriend, since we have agreed it is fair if both of us contribute to paying for birth control — why should it be only the woman’s responsibility? She does need a prescription to obtain it initially, but the generic brand is only about $10/month. Condoms are no great expense, either, and you don’t need a prescription for them. If someone is very low income and cannot afford the appointment they can always go into a Planned Parenthood clinic and obtain assistance there.

    I think more important is basic care, for which it can be a big expense for someone who’s low-income but above the Medicaid cutoff line. But there are ways around that, too — a friend of mine just out of med school is working in gynecology, and his hospital (Catholic) provides heavily discounted or free treatment to very low-income women. I don’t know if it meets all the need out there, but there are definitely options.

  7. September 24, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Sal, your girlfriend’s birth control is probably $10 a month because insurance is subsidizing it.

    Yes, low-income people can go to Planned Parenthood, which offers great services — except that they are already stretched pretty thin. Plus Republicans are constantly trying to de-fund them and shut them down. So many low-income women don’t have a Planned Parenthood near by.

    Condoms also aren’t always the solution, since they require that your male partner use them. A lot of women aren’t able to demand condom use.

    As for the idea that basic care is “more important,” why is reproductive health care not “basic care”? Is it just because it’s a lady thing? I mean, I don’t even have a general practitioner, but I do have a regular gynocologist — because for me, and for many women my age, reproductive health care is our primary and most important care. My gynocologist is the only doctor I see regularly. A few years ago when I didn’t have health insurance or a job I did go to Planned Parenthood and I got a year’s worth of birth control for free. But in order to do that, I had to (a) live in a state where PP is well-funded; (b) have a car to drive to the closest PP, which was about 30 minutes away from my house; (c) have 30 minutes to drive there, an hour to sit in the waiting room, 30 minutes for the appointment and 30 minutes to drive back home, in the middle of the day. A lot of low-wage workers can’t take that kind of time off work.

    Anyway, point being, it is not nearly as easy as you think.

  8. Gembird
    September 24, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Sal, just a point about your first post:

    A free clinic is less than useless if you can’t even afford to get there in the first place, or you don’t know it’s there. Rural areas often have a lot of low-income people who can’t afford the transport to the clinic even if they know about it and are willing to go.

    Yes, there are options, but not everyone is able to use them.

  9. September 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    And in a lot of low income areas, certain stores lock up their condoms… if they stock them at all.

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