Sex lovers, gather round: there’s a form of birth control that is quickly gaining popularity. The intrauterine device, or IUD for short, is a T-shaped pliable plastic rod with an attached thread that measures over an inch long and is inserted into the uterus through the cervix. According to a study, female doctors use IUDs two-to-five times more often than women who aren’t doctors. IUD’s are safe, low-maintenance and effective.
There are two types of IUDs to choose from: the Mirena and the Paragard. The Mirena helps prevent pregnancy by releasing a small amount of the hormone progesterone locally in the uterus each day. The Paragard uses a tiny copper filament that’s wrapped around the T, making your uterus a toxic environment for sperm. This type of IUD does not use any hormones of any kind. (No method of birth control is one hundred per cent effective. This needs to be reflected in the verb choices above.)
So, now that you know what kinds of IUDs there are, why should you care? What makes IUDs so great? There are many advantages to this type of birth control. First of all, they work. They are ranked as one of the most effective birth controls on the market, on level with irreversible methods such as getting your tubes tied. They’re also small, with the whole device being the same size as an iPod shuffle. And they are affordable. Most insurance providers cover IUDs, reducing the cost significantly (I only had to pay five dollars for mine). They last a very, very long time. For example, the Mirena lasts for up to five years, and the Paragard can last up to ten. They can be removed at any time, and fertility is not affected whatsoever.
But there are disadvantages, as well. Insertion isn’t a pleasant experience, and some women experience mild to moderate pain when the IUD is put in. Cramping and backaches occur for days, and some woman experience spotting for upwards of a month after insertion. The Mirena can cause three to six months of irregular periods, and the Paragard can cause heavier periods and painful menstrual cramps. These are all things to discuss with your doctor during a consultation visit, as everyone experiences these symptoms differently.
One thing to understand is that the IUD prevents pregnancy, but does not prevent STIs. If you are getting down with a new partner, make sure that secondary birth control such as condoms are used in order to prevent infection transmission.
The bottom line is that IUDs are safe, effective, and incredibly easy to use. IUD use jumped from one to three per cent in 2008, and those numbers are expected to rise. A whole new generation of women is discovering just how awesome IUDs can be. If you feel that your lifestyle may benefit from having an IUD, talk to your doctor and book an appointment!