Special ambulatory gynecologic considerations in the era of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and implications for future practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has altered medical practice in unprecedented ways. Although much of the emphasis in obstetrics and gynecology to date has been on the as yet uncertain effects of coronavirus disease 2019 in pregnancy and on changes to surgical management, the pandemic has broad implications for ambulatory gynecologic care. In this article, we review important ambulatory gynecologic topics such as safety and mental health, reproductive life planning, sexually transmitted infections, and routine screening for breast and cervical cancer. For each topic, we review how care may be modified during the pandemic, provide recommendations when possible on how to ensure continued access to comprehensive healthcare at this time, and discuss ways that future practice may change. Social distancing requirements may place patients at higher risk for intimate partner violence and mental health concerns, threaten continued access to contraception and abortion services, affect prepregnancy planning, interrupt routine screening for breast and cervical cancer, increase risk of sexually transmitted infection acquisition and decrease access to treatment, and exacerbate already underlying racial and minority disparities in care and health outcomes. We advocate for increased use of telemedicine services with increased screening for intimate partner violence and depression using validated questionnaires. Appointments for long-acting contraceptive insertions can be prioritized. Easier access to patient-controlled injectable contraception and pharmacist-provided hormonal contraception can be facilitated. Reproductive healthcare access can be ensured through reducing needs for ultrasonography and laboratory testing for certain eligible patients desiring abortion and conducting phone follow-up for medication abortions. Priority for in-person appointments should be given to patients with sexually transmitted infection symptoms, particularly if at risk for complications, while also offering expedited partner therapy. Although routine mammography screening and cervical cancer screening may be safely delayed, we discuss society guideline recommendations for higher-risk populations. There may be an increasing role for patient-collected human papillomavirus self-samples using new cervical cancer screening guidelines that can be expanded considering the pandemic situation. Although the pandemic has strained our healthcare system, it also affords ambulatory clinicians with opportunities to expand care to vulnerable populations in ways that were previously underutilized to improve health equity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-378
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Volume223
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Keywords

  • abortion
  • cervical cancer screening
  • contraception
  • coronavirus disease 2019
  • health equity
  • intimate partner violence
  • reproductive healthcare access
  • telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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