September 30, 2015

Press Release # 040-15
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Carolina Rodriguez (347) 396-4177

Health Department Launches “Maybe The IUD” Campaign to Increase Awareness of This Effective and Low-Maintenance Birth Control Option

The campaign is one part of a five year initiative to enhance and elevate community dialogue and engagement on sexual and reproductive justice

The New York City Health Department announced today the launch of “Maybe the IUD,” a public education campaign to increase awareness of the intrauterine device (IUD), a highly effective, low-maintenance birth control option. The campaign, which will include subway and online ads, social media, print materials and a website, provides information about a full range of birth control options, and stresses the importance of getting accurate information about contraceptive options, so that every woman can choose the method that best meets her needs and lifestyle. Campaign materials also recognize the importance of using condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett was joined at LaGuardia Community College by LaGuardia President Gail O. Mellow, Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, Dean, CUNY School of Public Health, Ashwini Hardikar, Director of Adolescent Sexual Health at the Grand Street Settlement, and two CUNY students, Anna Jankowski and Carla Peralta.

“All women, regardless of life circumstances or ability to pay, have the right to make informed choices about their reproductive health and act on those choices by receiving accurate information and easy access to the full range of birth control options,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “As part of our five-year campaign, the Health Department will partner with community organizations to elevate the conversation around sexual and reproductive justice in New York City. This will be the first time a municipal health department has done this, and I’m proud that we are leading the way.”

The Health Department is partnering with the City University of New York (CUNY) on this campaign. CUNY is a key partner in reaching young adults who often have limited access to sexual and reproductive health care information and services.

“CUNY is committed to promoting the health and well-being of our students, and for young women and their partners, reproductive health is an important part of this agenda,” said Chancellor James B. Milliken. “We are pleased to partner with the NYC Health Department on this important campaign to help us assure that CUNY students have accurate information and access to birth control options. This is a key component of CUNY’s overall commitment to our students and it fits perfectly with the “Healthy CUNY” initiative led by the CUNY School of Public Health.”

“LaGuardia is laser-focused on keeping our 55,000 students in school through graduation, and campaigns like “Maybe the IUD” address the health needs of our students by providing them accurate medical information and linkages to services they need,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President, LaGuardia Community College.
”Maybe the IUD” refers to an intrauterine device (IUD), a small, T-shaped birth control device that a health care provider inserts into a woman’s uterus. IUDs are safe for most women, low maintenance, highly effective at preventing pregnancy, and last between 3 and 10 years. They do not require any ongoing effort, like taking a pill daily. An IUD can be removed at any time it is no longer desired, and will not affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant after it is removed.

“This is a unique opportunity for the reproductive justice movement,” said Dr. Lynn Roberts, emeritus SisterSong Board Member and Assistant Professor of Community Health at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Public Health. “This is the first time reproductive justice advocates have worked directly with a health department.”

The “Maybe the IUD” campaign is part of a broader five-year initiative to increase awareness, access, utilization and coordination of a full continuum of sexual and reproductive health and related services. The campaign aims, in part, to spark a citywide dialogue around sexual and reproductive health justice – which promotes individual choice and body autonomy within the context of our nation’s history of reproductive oppression and coercion directed at women of color and low-income women. The reproductive justice framework states that every woman has the right to:

  • Decide if and when she will have a child and the conditions under which she will give birth.
  • Decide if she will not have a child and her options for preventing or ending a pregnancy.
  • Parent the child(ren) she has with the necessary social supports in safe environments and healthy communities, and without threat of violence

To this end, the Health Department is working with diverse community stakeholders to plan activities complementary to the campaign, as well as to help shape the future work of the five-year initiative.

"As a member of the Community Engagement Group, I am heartened to see that the DOHMH is prioritizing the needs and perspectives of marginalized community members,” said Ashwini Hardikar, Director of Adolescent Sexual Health at the Grand Street Settlement. “My participation in the Community Engagement Group has been a valuable opportunity to amplify the voices of the participants we at Grand Street Settlement work with daily, who are too often left without agency regarding decisions about their own health and bodies.

The Health Department is committed to ensuring that women and their partners know what their birth control options are so that they can choose a method that works best for them. In 2013, almost 40% of New York City women aged 18 to 45 who had vaginal sex in the past year did not use birth control, despite the fact that most of these women did not intend to become pregnant. This indicates that more can be done to educate women about the range of available birth control options and assure that they have easy access to all options. Among those who used birth control, the most popular methods were condoms (63.4%) and the pill (35.3%). About 8.4% of women using birth control used IUDs or contraceptive implants.

As part of its commitment to sexual and reproductive justice, the Health Department wants to ensure that low-income women and women of color who want to prevent or delay pregnancy – those for whom a history of reproductive oppression may still resonate – can take control of their reproductive health and choose the method that best meets their needs. Preventing unintended pregnancy is more difficult for women with the least resources: among women who gave birth in 2011, 46% of those in the lowest-income households (<$10,000) reported that their pregnancy was unintended, compared with 20% of women in the highest-income (>$75,000) households. Increasing awareness of birth control options, including the IUD, will support all women to make informed choices.

“The National Institute developed the ‘Maybe the IUD’ campaign in order to raise awareness about this contraceptive method among younger women across the city. We couldn't be more proud that the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is now carrying forward to reach a wider and more diverse audience,” said National Institute for Reproductive Health President Andrea Miller. “We believe that information is the first step in preventing an unplanned pregnancy, and this campaign is distinctive in its unassuming approach, encouraging women to consider an effective birth control option that they may have otherwise overlooked, but that may suit their individual needs."

The “Maybe the IUD” campaign is an adaptation of a campaign originally developed by the National Institute for Reproductive Health. Women and men can search for “Maybe the IUD” at to learn more about the IUD and other birth control options, or call 311 to find out where to get free or low-cost birth control in NYC.

The campaign is using the hashtag #MaybeTheIUD to amplify the message and spread awareness on social media. On Tuesday, October 6 from 2 to 3 p.m., the Health Department will host a Twitter chat on this new campaign. Community members can participate by using the hashtag #MaybeTheIUDChat.

Health care providers and other social service agencies can call 311 to order free copies of “Maybe the IUD” postcards and posters, as well as tear-off patient information sheets, brochures and posters on a full range of birth control options. The Health Department encourages health care providers to increase women’s access to the full range of birth control options and ensure that counseling is free from coercion. Health care providers can access provider and patient educational materials by searching “Sexual and Reproductive Health” at .

In addition, the Health Department has recruited local hospitals to participate in the Quality Improvement Network for Contraceptive Access, a learning collaborative to support hospitals in implementing best clinical practices for the provision of contraceptive services postpartum, post-abortion, and in primary care settings.

Further, the Health Department supports teens, men and women through community-based efforts including Nurse-Family Partnership, Newborn Home Visiting Program and NYC Teens Connection, school-based efforts including provision of reproductive health services at School-based Health Centers, and comprehensive sex education for students in middle and high schools, partners with health care providers and community organizations to improve the quality of and increase access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, disseminates information on clinical best practices, advocates for policies that ensure sexual and reproductive health, and conducts surveillance on sexual and reproductive health outcomes in NYC.