Thursday, April 21, 2011

IUDs: Facts and Fictions

As one lovely reader pointed out, IUDs are a wonderful form of birth control that is often overlooked in this country. In fact, worldwide, they are the most common form of contraception. So I thought I would take this opportunity to give some facts and clear up some fictions about IUDs.

Here in the U.S., women can use either of two types of IUD: one contains copper (aka, Paragard, and the other contains the hormone progesterone (aka, Mirena). Basically, a medical professional (can't do this at home!) inserts the device into the uterus, and the IUD prevents pregnancy mostly by keeping a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm from meeting, and make it harder for an egg to reach or attach to the uterus. With the copper IUD, the copper disrupts sperm movement (hello paralyzed swimmers). The hormone in the Mirena helps block sperm from getting into the uterus (like a super sperm shield).

Ladies, IUDs are uber effective! As in, other than abstinence and tubal ligation, pretty much the most effective form of contraception if placed properly.

So why isn't everyone on the IUD bandwagon? Good question!

Back in the 70s, there was a giant hubabaloo around the Dalkon Shield IUD, including infertility, uterine perforation, and death. Oh yeah, shiz hit the fan around IUDs, and women started going into a panic. They took the Dalkon off the market, but people in the US have been freaked out about IUDs since. For many years, women were strongly cautioned against getting an IUD if they wanted to have children later, and doctors often refused to provide IUDs to childless women due to fears about infertility (this in fact, happened to me) .We need to remember that back then medical devices were not regulated as they are now, so we can rest assured that the IUDs on the market today are heavily studied and kept track of.

There are of course, some downside of using IUDs. First, they are not so fun have inserted, especially if you have never given birth. Second, you risk developing PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), and infection that can cause infertility. Now, this risk is VERY low (although higher if you have and STI), but it is something that you actually need to be aware of and go to the doctor at the first sign of something being wrong (we all too often gloss over our symptoms and pain). Third, with the copper IUD, periods tend to be heavier, while on Mirena, they are lighter but you are using hormones. And fourth, you can't just yank it out yourself, you have to go to a medical practitioner to have it removed.

Here is a great resource about IUDs : IUD facts

So, if you are sick of popping pills with all their hormones and aren't ready to have babies just yet (or have any more), give your lady parts doc a shout out about IUDs.

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