Find out why IUDs are becoming a popular contraceptive device once more
More than 99 percent of sexually active women have used some form of contraception, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But only 3.5 percent of those women have tried an Intrauterine Contraceptive Device or IUD. It has even been called the most effective birth control method women aren’t using.
Scott & White OB/GYN, Patricia Sulak, MD, offers some insight into this anomaly and why women should consider an IUD for their contraceptive needs.
What are IUDs?
An IUD is a device placed inside of the uterus to prevent pregnancy and the progesterone IUD (Mirena) is also FDA approved for the treatment of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding, Dr. Sulak said.
“The IUD works by thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the lining inside the uterus,” she said. “It actually prevents sperm from making it up into the fallopian tubes.”
But unlike other forms of birth control that contain estrogen and interrupt the ovulation process, IUDs contain copper (ParaGard) or progesterone (Mirena) and don’t inhibit ovulation. The ovaries continue to work as they always have.
Why Haven’t You Heard Much About IUDs?
“[IUDs] got a bad rap in the 1960s and 70s because there was one IUD called the Dalkon Shield that caused women some serious problems. Its strength and construction increased the rate of horrible pelvic infections in women,” Dr. Sulak said.
The contraceptive device didn’t make a comeback in the marketplace until ten years ago when the Mirena IUD was introduced.
“It is FDA approved not only for the prevention of pregnancy, but for treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding,” the doctor said. “It can decrease menstrual flow by 80 to 90 percent.”
With the introduction of the Mirena, IUD use became widely accepted and practiced once more. Now, Dr. Sulak gets frequent requests for the IUD from her patients.
Benefits of an IUD
Even though it is still one of the lesser-known forms of birth control, IUDs have some favorable benefits.
1. Can significantly decrease menstrual flow
“With the Mirena, some women have periods that are so light that they barely notice them, or they don’t have heavy periods at all.”
2. Decreases need to perform major surgery
In the past, many women asked their physicians for tubal ligations or even hysterectomies if they experienced heavy bleeding when they were finished having children. But with an IUD, women can prevent pregnancy and heavy menstrual bleeding without going under the knife. The procedure to place the device only takes only a couple of minutes in a doctor’s office, and is highly effective.
3. No more birth control pill
For women who have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, or for those women who have diabetes, high blood pressure or who smoke, the birth control pill can not only be a nuisance, but can also be dangerous. IUDs provide stress-free pregnancy prevention for five years.
4. No decrease in fertility
Once removed, there is no decrease in your fertility with the copper or the progesterone IUD. If you decide in two years that you want a baby, the device can be removed in your physician’s office and you can begin trying to get pregnant the next month.
The Side Effects
According to Mirena-us.com, the device has the potential to attach to the wall of the uterus and cause other problems. You could also contract a serious infection called pelvic inflammatory disease.
Although these side effects sound scary, Dr. Sulak said they aren’t likely to occur.
“If [the device] is placed by people who know what they are doing—and our OB/GYN department knows how to put them in the right candidates—then these side effects are rare.”
Patients who do choose the IUD should be monitored closely because there is a 1 in 20 chance that the person’s body could expel the device.
“It is important for women to come back two to three months after insertion and then annually to make sure it is still in the correct place.”
How Do You Know If an IUD is Right for You?
If you are looking for long-acting, reversible contraception, then an IUD could be right for you.
“The person must also have a fairly normal sized uterus that is not full of fibroid tumors,” she said. “It’s easier to place the device in women who’ve had a baby, but we can put them in women who’ve never had a baby.”
For more information about IUDs, Dr. Sulak suggests talking with your healthcare provider and reading the information available on the manufacturer’s website.