When it comes to birth control, you have a lot of choices. From abstinence to sterilization and several options in between those extremes, each method comes with pros and cons.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that about 65% of all women between the ages of 15 and 49 in the US use some form of contraception, and more than 10% of them choose the intrauterine device (IUD). A more detailed breakdown shows that nearly 14% of those in their 20s and 30s opt for the IUD.
Those numbers might be higher if it weren’t for the confusion surrounding this form of contraception. Dr. Melissa Delgado and our team at the Chronic Pelvic Pain Center of Northern Virginia in Vienna, Virginia hear many of the myths and urban lore regarding IUDs, and we’re here to set the record straight.
What an IUD Is and How It Works
An IUD is a small, T-shaped device that interferes with the insemination process once it’s implanted inside your uterus. Two versions are available — copper or silicone—and each works a little differently to prevent pregnancy. They’re both considered long-acting birth control.
The copper IUD, called ParaGard, is actually a plastic device wrapped with a copper coil. The copper causes an inflammatory response inside your uterus that’s toxic to sperm, so it prevents conception. ParaGard is effective for up to 10 years.
The silicone versions—brand names Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena—are infused with the hormone progestin, which thwarts conception in two ways:
It thins the uterine lining to inhibit the transportation of sperm
It thickens cervical mucus to suppress ovulation
Each brand releases a different dose of the hormone, which affects its length of effectiveness. Mirena releases the highest level at 20 micrograms a day and lasts up to 10 years, and Skyla releases the lowest at 13.5 micrograms a day and lasts up to three years.
Dr. Delgado discusses your family plans, your current health, and your health history before recommending a specific IUD. If you’re a good candidate, you schedule an appointment for an IUD implantation. If and when you’re ready to have children, Dr. Delgado removes the device, and you’re good to go.
Those are the facts. So, here are the myths.
Myth: IUD Implantation Is Extremely Painful.
There’s definitely some discomfort that comes along with IUD implantation. However, it’s typically short-lived. Most women liken the feeling after implantation to menstrual cramps. We recommend taking a dose of ibuprofen before your appointment to ease the discomfort.
Myth: IUDs Cause Infection.
This fallacy has been circulating for many years, because the original iteration of the device, called the Dalkon Shield, was linked to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Today’s IUDs have come a long way and don’t cause infections.
However, if you already have a sexually transmitted infection, an IUD can make it worse, so we don’t recommend this form of birth control for those with STIs.
Myth: IUDs Make You Infertile.
Again, the Dalkon Shield is to blame here. The infection triggered by this early device resulted in some cases of infertility. But modern IUDs don’t have the same problem.
Myth: IUDs Are Only for Women With Children.
Women who have had at least one baby tend to have a larger uterus and cervix than nulliparous women — the medical term for women who have never had a baby. It was once thought that nulliparous women and very small women (including adolescents) were not good candidates for an IUD because it would be too difficult to implant it in a relatively tiny area.
But studies have debunked that myth, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports the use of IUDs for all women who are good candidates, including adolescents and nulliparous women.
Is an IUD Right for You?
Birth control is a very personal decision. When considering which method to use, we urge you to learn the facts and talk to Dr. Delgado. She can help you understand the pros and cons of each type of contraceptive, how to use them properly, and which one suits your lifestyle best.
To learn more about IUDs and other contraception options, request an appointment online, or call us at 571-261-8069 today.