If the idea of having something inserted into your body and leaving it there for years freaks you out, you can rest easy: A new study published in the May issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that the intrauterine deviceÃ¢â‚¬”a quarter-size, T-shaped contraption that sits inside the uterusÃ¢â‚¬”is a safe birth control methodÃ‚Â for women of any age, including teenagers. Among the study findings: less than once percent of users developed complications, andÃ‚Â discontinuation rates were the same across all age groups (a tip-offÃ‚Â that younger women experienced no greater side effects or dissatisfaction than older users did).
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s welcome news, especially since IUDs are more thanÃ‚Â 99 percent effective at blocking pregnancy for up to 10 hassle-free years. Hopefully the study will put to rest longstanding rumors thatÃ‚Â IUDs are potentially harmful. Thinking of going to the gyno for your own IUD? Here's what you need to know:
Complications are rare Serious side effects from IUDs, such asÃ‚Â ectopic pregnancy and pelvic inflammatory disease, occurred in less than one percent of the women in the new study, according toÃ‚Â researchers. All birth control methods carry some health risks, of course. But as long as you don't already have an STD or anotherÃ‚Â infection when your gyno inserts the IUDÃ¢â‚¬”and you always use condoms if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not monogamous to reduce the odds of contracting oneÃ¢â‚¬”there's little to worry about, says Alyssa Dweck, an OBGYN in Mt. Kisco, NY, and coauthor of V Is for Vagina.
Inserting one shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be uncomfortable An IUD works by sitting inÃ‚Â your uterus and emitting either the hormone progestin or a smallÃ‚Â amount of copper, a natural spermicide. Getting either type in place requires a five-minute gyno visit, during which your doctor will fitÃ‚Â it through your cervix and into the uterus. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Many women donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel a thing during insertion, while others experience a twinge or two of pain, like what you feel during a Pap test,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dweck. Taking anÃ‚Â OTC painkiller beforehand and making the appointment during the last days of your period, when your cervix is naturally more open, willÃ‚Â reduce discomfort.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not just for moms Doctors used to advise child-free women toÃ‚Â chose another contraceptive method; the thinking was that since theirÃ‚Â uteruses hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been stretched out during pregnancy, they were moreÃ‚Â prone to side effects like cramping and even having the IUD pop outÃ‚Â and into the vagina. But these risks were always very small, says Dweck, and they're practically nonexistent thanks to a new hormonal IUD called Skyla. Approved earlier this year, Skyla is smaller thanÃ‚Â other IUDs and is specifically designed to fit the less flexibleÃ‚Â uterus of a woman who hasn't given birth.
You can remove it whenever you want IUDs are a long-lasting form ofÃ‚Â birth control you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to think about or fuss with, and that'sÃ‚Â part of the appeal. The copper-emitting type, called Paraguard, can safely remain in the uterus for as long as 10 years. A second kindÃ‚Â that administers a small dose of the hormone progestin, known asÃ‚Â Mirena, can stay in for up to five years, while Skyla lasts for three. "Still, if you decide for any reason that you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want it inÃ‚Â anymore, your gyno can remove it in a quick office visit, and your fertility will return with no problems,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dweck.
One type might make your period easier Women who use the Mirena IUDÃ‚Â tend to report easier, lighter, less crampy periods. On the otherÃ‚Â hand, some Paraguard users say that their flow is heavier, longer, andÃ‚Â more painful. (Skyla hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been on the market long enough to know forÃ‚Â sure how it affects menstruation.) The benefits for your period may beÃ‚Â why the new study found that hormonal IUDs were associated with fewer complications and lower discontinuation rates than copper IUDs.
They don't cost as much as you think True, the up-front fees of anÃ‚Â IUDÃ‚Â can run you $500 to $1,000, says Dweck (you're paying forÃ‚Â the device itself, as well as the doctorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s visit toÃ‚Â insert it and then a follow-up visit six weeks later to make sure itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢sÃ‚Â in place). But manyÃ‚Â insurance plans cover part or all of the cost. And the initial hit toÃ‚Â your pocketbook might end up being better in the long run than whatÃ‚Â you'll pay shelling out each month for your pill prescription.