The Fine Line Between Informing and Coercing: Community Health Center Clinicians' Approaches to Counseling Young People About IUDs

Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2020 Dec;52(4):245-252. doi: 10.1363/psrh.12161. Epub 2020 Dec 1.


Context: While community health centers (CHCs) are meeting increased demand for contraceptives, little is known about contraceptive counseling in these settings. Understanding how clinicians counsel about IUDs in CHCs, including whether they address or disregard young people's preferences and concerns during counseling, could improve contraceptive care.

Methods: As part of a training program, 20 clinicians from 11 San Francisco Bay Area CHC sites who counsel young people about contraception were interviewed by telephone in 2015 regarding their IUD counseling approaches. An iterative grounded theory approach was used to analyze interview transcripts and identify salient themes related to clinicians' contraceptive counseling, IUD removal practices and efforts to address patient concerns regarding side effects.

Results: Most clinicians offered comprehensive contraceptive counseling and method choice. While several clinicians viewed counseling as an opportunity to empower their patients to make contraceptive decisions without pressure, they also described a tension between guiding young people toward higher-efficacy methods and respecting patients' choices. Many clinicians engaged in what could be considered coercive practices by trying to dissuade patients from removals within a year of placement and offering to treat or downplay side effects.

Conclusions: Providers try to promote their young patients' autonomous decision making, but their support for high-efficacy methods can result in coercive practices. More training is needed to ensure that providers employ patient-centered counseling approaches, including honoring patient requests for removals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coercion
  • Community Health Centers*
  • Contraception*
  • Counseling*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Intrauterine Devices*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation
  • Patient Preference
  • Qualitative Research
  • San Francisco