In these tough economic times, women are reporting that they've put off having a baby or have decided not to have any more children, according to a survey released today by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization focusing on reproductive health issues. The survey of 947 women ages 18 to 34 with annual household incomes of less than $75,000 was conducted this past summer, and the findings confirm the results of similar surveys conducted earlier in the year:
- Nearly half of women in the new survey said that they want to reduce or delay childbearing because of the economy.
- Women who experienced a financial hardship over the past year—reduced salary, loss of a job, work hours cut—were more likely to report changes in fertility preferences. Shifting attitudes weren't limited to those with low incomes; many of those with household incomes up to $75,000 considered a child unaffordable if they were earning less money today than in the past.
- 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."
"I was surprised by the magnitude of these findings," says Laura Lindberg, a senior research associate at Guttmacher who helped conduct the survey. "While nearly half of women say they're trying harder not to get pregnant, many are also having a harder time paying for birth control," she adds. Some are even skimping on their method: About 8 percent of respondents said they sometimes didn't use birth control in order to save money, and about 18 percent of women using the pill said they didn't use it consistently in order to cut costs. Some skipped pills, others delayed getting a prescription filled, and some simply went off the pill for the month and hoped for the best.
This, of course, can lead to unintended pregnancies. "Cutting your pill in half or taking one every other day isn't going to work," says Lindberg. Here are some more effective cost-saving measures to get you through those tough economic times:
1. Ask your doctor about generic contraception. Switching from a name-brand pill to a generic brand can cut your monthly costs from $50 to less than $10, a value offered in some drugstores. Your doctor will have to specify on your prescription that you'd prefer a generic version.
2. See if you qualify for subsidized birth control. Your county health department or a family planning clinic like Planned Parenthood may offer reduced-rate birth control for financially pressed women. About 20 states have implemented free family planning services for low-income folks, typically defined as an income of $37,000 for a family of three or $21,000 for a single woman.
3. Ask your partner to pick up some of the financial responsibility. This may not be relevant for married folks with combined finances, but nearly half the women surveyed were single. There's no reason a male partner shouldn't foot half the bill for your birth control since he'll be on the hook for child-rearing costs if you become pregnant and have the baby.
4. Check your insurance plan for savings. Some plans cover the cost of an IUD insertion or surgical sterilization but not the monthly cost of birth control pills. If you and your gynecologist decide those are appropriate options for you, "even if you have to absorb some of the costs," says Lindberg, "the one-time payment may end up costing you less in the long run than the monthly fee for oral contraceptives."
5. Take a long-term perspective. Sure, you might save a few dollars by forgoing contraception now, but it will cost a lot more down the road—in dollars and stress— if you have an unintended pregnancy.