Why aren't YOU using this?
Nearly half of Chinese women have one. In Europe, it's the most popular form of long-term contraception. But while the IUD has long reigned supreme as the world's most widely used form of birth control, it's hard to find an American woman under 40 who's familiar with the intrauterine device. In the United States, less than 2 percent of women use the IUD, which hasn't been a mainstream birth control option due to ignorance and persistent myths about its safety.
If you haven't thought seriously about the IUD, consider these benefits.
1. Complications Are Rare
Today, Dalkon Shield sounds like the name of a Gossip Girl character, not the name of a faulty IUD model that caused miscarriages, sterility, and even death among American women in the 1970s. But though the stigmas against the IUD continue, medical science has since evolved and discovered that using an IUD today is no more dangerous than giving birth. IUDs still carry some risks, such as uterine perforation and pelvic inflammatory disease (both quite rare). The latter tends to develop in IUD users who contract sexually transmitted infections and leave them untreated. For that reason, most gynecologists recommend the IUD only to women in long-term, sexually monogamous relationships.
2. Perfect Use Is Guaranteed
The IUD takes the guesswork out of birth control. Once inserted in your uterus by your gynecologist, the IUD prevents pregnancy for five to 10 years, depending on the variety you get. With no pills to take or patches to replace, eliminating human error from the equation. Less than .01 percent of IUD users get pregnant annually — an efficacy rate on par with sterilization. Compare that to the pill, which is only effective 92 to 97 percent of the time (given typical use) and the condom, which has a failure rate of 14 percent.
3. It's Compatible With Changing Lifestyle Needs
The IUD is the most easily reversible long-term birth control option. A report by the Guttmacher Institute notes that "IUDs may be welcome choices for many women, particularly those for whom the systemic effects of the pill, the patch and the ring are a concern, and those who want to delay having children for many years or think they have completed their family." Once removed, the IUD's effect immediately ceases so you can get pregnant again as soon as you want. Compare that to the Depo-Provera shot, which can affect fertility for up to 18 months after it's injected.
4. It's Affordable
The IUD has a hefty upfront cost ($300 to $500) plus the fee for the insertion, but you will likely only have to pay a co-pay if you have insurance. Birth control pills, on the other hand, can easily cost over $200 dollars annually. The IUD is good to go for five years, which makes it the most inexpensive form of birth control available on the market.
5. It Has Low Or No Side Effects
The IUD comes with a sometimes painful insertion procedure, a few weeks of spotting, and initial cramping. However, unlike other long-term options, such as the progesterone shot or an under-the-skin implant, it doesn't cause long-term, severe side effects such as weight gain or chronic headaches. In fact, it can even treat some of those pesky health issues you've been dealing with.
Can't take hormonal birth control? The copper IUD is completely hormone-free and is effective for up to 10 years. Sick of PMS symptoms or heavy menstrual flow? Try the low-hormone Mirena, which alleviates both and sometimes eliminates periods altogether.
IUDs are rising in popularity, even among college-aged women who have never given birth. (Traditionally, only women who have been pregnant before have used it.) However, not all doctors are comfortable recommending and inserting them, since research in favor of the IUD is a very recent development. If the trends abroad are any indication, however, the IUD is making a comeback in the United States, where women unhappy with the pill have long yearned for an alternative.