Vancouver doctor says demand for IUDs outstrips ability to provide them

A Vancouver doctor is calling for more incentives from the provincial Government to help clinics keep up with the rising demand for IUDs. Angela Bower has more on the surge in interest after B.C. made birth control free on April 1.

A Vancouver doctor is calling for more incentives from the provincial government to help clinics keep up with the rising demand for Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs).

Many forms of birth control became free for BC patients on April 1, including IUDs. Dr. Renee Hall — who works at the Willow Clinic, which specializes in family planning — says shortly after that, her clinic received over 350 referrals and new patient requests. She says there was also a huge demand for IUDs, significantly increasing wait times.

Hall says more doctors in Vancouver are also dropping IUD insertion as a service, and that worries her. She says there needs to be more incentives from the provincial government to attract doctors to specialize in IUDs.

“If you write a business plan for an IUD clinic, you can’t balance the books. And so, right away, the government does have to put in more funding into the fee that they give for IUD insertion services because of the training, the equipment, and the time it takes to actually put it in.”

An IUD is a t-shaped device that requires specific skills and equipment to insert inside the uterus, as well as follow-up care and pain management.

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Right now, Dr. Hall says doctors get about $40 for that kind of appointment, and that doesn’t cover the time and equipment needed.

“Subsidizing publicly funded IUD or contraceptive clinics would be really helpful … for some of the health authorities, and increasing the fee that is given to the clinic for an IUD insertion so that they can actually afford to do it and that it becomes desirable for the physicians.”

CityNews reached out to the Ministry of Health for comment on the matter.

Dr. Hall says IUDs are popular because they don’t affect hormone levels as much and have a low risk of blood clots. She says some can even last up to 12 years.

“It’s problematic because the longer someone’s waiting for the best choice for birth control, then the more chance there is of unintended pregnancy. The whole entire purpose of the announcement for free contraception was to try to help to decrease unintended pregnancy and including the cost related to unintended pregnancy.”

“Every form of contraception has side effects, its impacts, its kind of ability to integrate into your daily life. IUDs are a one-time insertion option compared to something like the pill where you have to take it every day — there’s a variety of efficacy rates related to contraception as well. IUDs have quite a high one,” Dr. Hall said. “So, this is one of the reasons why this might be of interest to some people.”

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Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights says it is important for people to have access to the birth control that works best for them.

“To decide whether, when, and with whom they’re going to have children. And having that reproductive control allows us to make choices around when we want to be in school when we want to be in work It affects women’s ability to govern a whole bunch of choices around their lives,” said Action Canada Director of Advocacy Kelly Bowden.

Dr. Hall adds that long wait times are happening at other doctors’ offices too.

“The other clinics I’ve been speaking to that are IUD-focused clinics. It’s four to six weeks to get in to get your IUD inserted. And right now at the abortion clinics, it’s two weeks and we can insert an IUD at the time of a surgical abortion. But obviously, that’s not the ideal way to be getting your IUD,” she said.

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