In this Aug. 26, 2016, file photo, a one-month dosage of hormonal birth control pills is displayed in Sacramento, California. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli | AP

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ROCKLAND, Maine — As doctors’ offices reschedule non-essential patient visits to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the state’s network of federally funded family-planning services is ensuring that women who can’t make an in-office visit will not see an interruption in their birth control prescriptions.

Maine Family Planning, a nonprofit that serves about 23,000 Mainers through its 18 clinics and health centers, such as Planned Parenthood in southern Maine, is extending birth control prescriptions for patients by three months — even if their prescription is set to expire.

“Nothing is more anxiety producing than to think ‘I’m running out of my [birth control] method,’” Maine Family Planning Vice President of Program Services Evelyn Kieltyka said. “Our goal is to get patients their contraceptive methods as best we can.”

The adjustments coincide with a time when people are being told to stay home. History has shown during periods when people are forced into isolation a “baby boom” often follows. After the ice storm of 1998, a small baby boom occurred in both Maine and New Hampshire, according to Bangor Daily News archive. In the past, birth rates also have peaked in places affected by blackouts, hurricanes and other life-altering events.

“It’s just human nature, if you’re home, there are more opportunities to have sexual relations. I haven’t looked at the data, but my memory says that in times when people have had to stay home for long periods of time, there could be a little baby boom,” Kieltyka said.

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Maine Family Planing’s clinics remain open, though Kieltyka said that decision is being evaluated on a daily basis as the organization continues to follow guidance from the Maine Center for Disease Control on how to operate during the coronavirus outbreak.

Patients in need of abortion services and care that must be provided in-person must still go to a clinic for treatment. However, Kieltyka said that Maine Family Planning is expanding its telehealthcare system, which allows patients to complete paperwork and consultations before they go into the office, reducing the amount of time they have to spend there.

Maine Family Planning also will use its telehealthcare services to serve new patients who are in need of a birth control prescription — a service that typically requires a trip to the doctor’s office.

In addition to the three-month extension for prescriptions, Maine Family Planning also is waiving the fee that patients are charged when a prescription has to be mailed.

MaineHealth spokesperson John Porter could not speak for each individual reproductive health care provider in its system, but he said patients who are worried about their birth control prescription expiring should call their doctor’s office.

“Just because we’ve postponed some nonessential office visits doesn’t mean we’re not refilling prescriptions,” Porter said.

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