PORTLAND, Maine -- Millions of romantic partners, cooped up together for weeks or months, with little to do other than watch reruns and play board games. A recipe for a baby boom, right?
Not so fast, say America's family planning providers. They're fine with folks dimming the lights, but they also want to dim any hopes of a population spike.
In chilly and home-bound Maine, for example, one of the state's key providers of family planning services is taking steps to make sure patients don't see an interruption in birth control prescriptions while much of the state enters shut-down mode because of the coronavirus pandemic. That includes extending birth control services for three months, the nonprofit Maine Family Planning said.
Other family planning nonprofits elsewhere across the country are taking similar steps, Maine Family Planning vice president of program services Evelyn Kieltyka said.
“We wanted to accommodate our patients. For women and families, there's already enough anxiety, so the idea that you can't get access to birth control is just too much,” he said.
Unexpected population-wide stretches of isolation at home sometimes results in a boom in births nine months later. Such a bump happened in Maine and New Hampshire after the 1998 ice storm that shut down parts of the Northeast.
Similar baby bumps have happened after events such as hurricanes that required partners to remain cooped up alone for long stretches of time.
Planned Parenthood, the biggest provider of reproductive health services in the country, is also doing more to make sure access to birth control is easy amid the pandemic. The organization on Wednesday encouraged patients to make use of PPDirect, an app that connects them to a provider via video so they can get birth control pills without setting foot outside. The app is available in more than two dozen states.
“We remain committed to delivering compassionate, non-judgmental reproductive and sexual health care to all who need it while we take proactive measures to stay as far ahead of COVID-19 as possible," said Meagan Gallagher, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
Services offered by providers weren't limited to just birth control pills, either. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania alerted patients via its website that birth control patches and the NuvaRing were also available via online appointments. The organization, like many health care providers, was instructing patients with symptoms of coronavirus to use the online services or reschedule appointments.
Maine Family Planning and other family planning providers are also stepping up efforts to offer more tele-health services and provide more birth control via mail.
Since no one knows how long the shutdown will last, MFP and other providers are continuing to monitor the situation. Otherwise, the future could involve more baby monitors.