The Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health is pushing primary care doctors to ask every woman one extra question when they see her for a regular checkup: "Do you want to become pregnant in the next year?"
Unlike the questions, "Are you sexually active?" or "Do you need birth control?" the wording of the question "Do you want to become pregnant in the next year?" allows a conversation to start with doctors and women who both do and do not want to become pregnant. For women who answer yes, doctors can give them preconception counseling and talk about staying healthy during pregnancy. For women who answer no, doctors can talk with them about contraceptive options.
The Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health talked with doctors across the state and found that they rarely spoke about birth control with their patients. Many of them assumed that women were discussing birth control at women's clinics, but in fact 72 percent of Oregon women get birth control through their primary care physicians. To get doctors to talk about birth control options more as regular part of checkups, the Portland-based healthcare nonprofit launched the "One Key Question" campaign this summer. The campaign recruits health centers to have all their primary care doctors incorporate that one question into their checkups. Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health Policy and Access Coordinator Hannah Rosenau explains, "I believe in One Key Question because it brings reproductive health back into the conversation and it supports women in their choice whether they want to become pregnant or whether they want to prevent it."
There is tremendous room for improvement in birth control—consistent with the national average, close to 50% of all pregnancies in Oregon are unintended. Of these, 70 percent of women who had unintended pregnancies implied that they lacked comprehensive contraception advice from a clinician. Of course, this one question won't fix every hurdle to birth control access in the country. A big problem has been the cost of birth control, but the rollout of the Affordale Care Act should provide full coverage of birth control for millions of women.
Moving forward, it won't matter whether the cost of birth control is covered by insurance if women who want it still aren't discussing that option with their doctors. The One Key Question campaign aims to bridge the divide between women and doctors to get women the contraceptive healthcare they desire.
Image via +mara.