The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has officially endorsed intrauterine devices (IUDs) as contraceptives for healthy women and teens.
Currently, there are two types of IUDs on the market: the Mirena, which releases hormones and may be worn for up to five years before removal, and the ParaGard, which is made of copper, doesn’t contain any hormones and can be left in for up to ten years. Both are incredibly effective at preventing pregnancy—less than 1 out of 100 women will get pregnant each year if they use the Paragard or the Mirena IUD, according to Planned Parenthood. Yet IUDs account for 5 percent of contraception used by women in the U.S., compared with about 15 percent worldwide.
Early IUDs were recalled for causing ectopic pregnancies and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and, as late as 2005, the ACOG only endorsed IUDs for women who had already given birth and were at a low risk for sexually transmitted diseases (though the Mirena and the ParaGard have been approved by the FDA since 2000 and 2005, respectively). A January 2011 study from Yeshiva University found family physicians are often uncomfortable talking about IUDs with patients, think their patients would not be open to learning about IUDs, or have gaps in knowledge about IUDs themselves. All this surely contributes to the reason IUDs have remained only a marginally popular birth control option for women in the U.S.
I’ve been wanting to get an IUD for a while, but every time I’ve tried, I’ve encountered either resistance from my gynecologist, or my insurance company (docs who warned me not to if I wanted to have kids, insurers who would only cover hormonal, not copper, IUDs for no apparent reason). Let’s hope these new recommendations will make it easier for women to get IUDs, get them covered by insurance, and get accurate information about them.
Next week, in honor of this new endorsement, we’ll look a little closer at IUDs—history, myth, fact, what the docs say, and what you say. If you’ve got any IUD experiences or opinions to share — love or hate it? copper or hormonal variety? did your doctor encourage or discourage you from getting it?—please comment below! Or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.