IUDs poised for quick, strong renaissance before Trump takes office

Nina Berman holds a sign at the #GOPHandsOffMe rally in October (Anna Foley/MEDILL).
Nina Berman rallies at an anti-GOP rally in October in front of Trump Tower. Berman created the "Ask Me About My IUD" patches in response to encourage dialogue about reproductive rights (Anna Foley/MEDILL).

By Anna Foley

Nina Berman is a longtime fan of IUDs, otherwise known as intrauterine birth control devices (the T-shaped ones). But after the election of Donald Trump last week, Berman noticed she wasn’t the only one. She saw more and more of her friends announcing on social media plans to get the long-term use IUDs.

As women re-evaluate birth control options in the face of a new White House administration hostile to the notion of women’s agency and choice, Berman wanted to join the conversation. So she created a sew-on patch out of coarse, brown fabric depicting a cartoon outline of an IUD, announcing, “Ask me about my IUD.”

“Sometimes people feel immediate concerns about their access to healthcare, and those threats can feel abstract,” Berman said. “But here, the threat is very embodied. It presents a scenario: I am not able to live the life I want to live.”

IUD Patches
Berman created the IUD patches to help questions about the long-term birth control (Photo Courtesy of Nina Berman).

After the Nov. 8 election, people turned to the internet as their interest in IUDs peaked. Several women posted their desire to get IUDs, particularly before Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence officially begin to govern in January.

On Google, the search term “IUD” spiked the day after the election. Interest in the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” rose 700 percent, and interest in Planned Parenthood rose 120 percent.

Dr. Eve Espey, chairwoman of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist’s long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) group, said these feelings are understandable.

“While I certainly hope birth-control methods will be readily available under the Trump administration, I can understand women’s concern over losing such access, particularly to high-cost methods,” Espey said.

At more than 99 percent effective, IUDs are one of the most successful means of birth control, according to Planned Parenthood. Despite that high degree of success, few American women actually use the wiry devices that must be inserted in a physician’s office. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 7.2 percent of women between ages 15 and 44 used IUDs from 2011 to 2013.

But with such a renewed interest, the IUD could go through a quick, but strong renaissance before Trump takes office in 2017.

“All women should be able to make a considered decision about their contraceptive method,” Espey said. “But concern about overturning the contraceptive mandate is an opportunity to think about and pursue contraceptive methods, particularly LARCs.”

Berman is taking full advantage of that opportunity with her IUD-themed patches. She said several women online have requested patches of their own.

“It’s a nice way to strengthen ties with other women and feminists,” Berman said. “We’re strengthening our community with this shared work.”

Berman realizes people in her community and other marginalized groups are facing difficult realities in a Trump-governed United States.

“It raises the stakes for people who don’t immediately feel a threat. I think it speaks to a very particular type of privilege,” she said. “The patches were a doable thing, in terms of personal coping. It’s easy to feel helpless and gutted. This is a small place to start.”

Nina Berman rallies at an anti-GOP rally in October in front of Chicago’s Trump Tower. Berman created the “Ask Me About My IUD” patches to encourage dialogue about reproductive rights in the era of Trump. (Anna Foley/MEDILL)