It’s already a known (and hotly debated) fact that I don’t want children, and that a tubal ligation is, apparently, out of the question until I reach some arbitrary age, at which point I will no longer, according to my doctor, be a zombie at the mercy of my womb’s insatiable desire to procreate, which could kick in at any time. Which means that, consistently, well-meaning friends and family (and strangers) suggest that I try the intrauterine device (IUD), which is implanted into a woman’s uterus and lives there and keeps her from getting pregnant for years. It’s less expensive than years upon years of birth control, and is pretty much a set-it-and-forget it situation. Assuming you can get past the actual insertion. But here’s the rub: the idea of inserting something into my cervix sounds like the worst kind of hell.
However, it does seem like the best option–at least, until I can get someone to perform the tubal ligation that I’ve been requesting for years. But really, getting an IUD sounds awful. And the rumors about what it does to your body (non-stop periods, horrible cramps, hormonal chaos) haven’t helped much.
So I posed my questions to a wonderful and compassionate OB-GYN, Dr. Rebecca Brightman, who was kind enough to answer even my most nervous-making queries. Here are her answers, which are some of the most straight-forward and helpful I’ve ever seen.
1.) How does the IUD actually work?
The IUD works by preventing implantation of a fertilized embryo and by also hindering sperm transport, thus making fertilization less likely to occur.
2.) How is the IUD implanted?
After a woman has a normal exam and has signed consent, an IUD is inserted during a woman’s period or immediately after her period. A speculum is placed into the vagina and the vagina and cervix is cleansed with Betadine or another antiseptic agent. An instrument is used to stabilize the cervix and another instrument is used to determine the size of the uterine cavity. Once that is determined, a thin plastic catheter is inserted thru the cervix and into the uterus. The IUD is then pushed through the catheter and opens in place.
3.) The IUD was, at one point, outlawed, correct? What has changed since then?
IUDs received a lot of negative publicity in the past and the original IUDs were pulled from the market. Within the last 25 years, IUDs have been reconfigured and are far less likely to be associated with the problems that were seen in the 1960′s and 1970′s. The complications that were seen in the past were associated with the configuration of the original IUDs. Those complications included pelvic infection and subsequent infertility.
4.) How safe is the current IUD?
There are currently two types of IUDs on the market in the US: the copper (non-hormonal) IUD and a hormonal IUD. They are both safe in the right patient. It is important to note that IUDs do not protect against STDs so, patients should be aware of this fact and if a woman has multiple sexual partners, the IUD may not be the best method of contraception.
5.) How long is the IUD effective?