Method Monday: IUDs!
Okay, we confess. We talk about this method a lot. But considering how many points the IUD has in its favor (Super-effective! Reversible! Long-lasting! Low-maintenance! …!!!!!), and how much misinformation is still out there about it, we just feel there’s still plenty to be said. Like what? So glad you asked…
- The IUD is the longest-lasting non-permanent birth control method available in the U.S.—and by long-lasting, we’re talking anywhere from 7 to 12* years, depending on which kind you get. That’s how long the IUD can protect you from pregnancy, but if you decide you want to get pregnant after 3 years (or 1 year, or two months…), you can have the IUD removed anytime and should return to your normal fertility level pretty much immediately.
- There are two kinds of IUD—one called Mirena, which works because of a low dose of the hormone progestin, and one called ParaGard that contains no hormones whatsoever and works thanks to a small amount of copper.
- The ParaGard IUD is the only super-effective non-hormonal birth control option—it lasts for up to 12 years and it’s eco-friendly!
- IUD insertion can hurt a little (or a lot, depending on the person), but most IUD users—even those on the “a lot” side of the spectrum—say it’s well worth the pain.
- The ParaGard IUD can be used for emergency contraception (EC) within 5 days of unprotected sex—in fact, it’s by far the most effective EC option available! Unfortunately, it seems like not a lot of people know that…
- Until recently, IUDs had a bad rap in the U.S., which is probably why they’re not as commonly used here as they are in other countries. Two groups in the U.S. who are more likely to use an IUD? Gynecologists (lady docs are 3 times more likely than the average U.S. woman to have an IUD) and participants in the Contraceptive CHOICE project in St. Louis, who were counseled on different birth control methods and then given their pick of the methods for free. Fortunately more and more U.S. women are getting the message that the new models are safe and super-effective and are deciding to give it a shot.
- There are lots of persistent rumors about who can use the IUD and who can’t—and most of them aren’t true. Even some health care providers aren’t up to date when it comes to IUDs, so if your provider discourages you from considering it, check out Nurse Lola’s great (read: hilarious) suggestions for how to deal.
- Another rumor about the IUD is that it’s super expensive—but it may be more affordable than you think. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, many insured folks should now (or soon) be able to get any FDA-approved birth control method without co-pays or deductibles. If you don’t have insurance, there may be other programs in your state to help you get the birth control you want without breaking the bank. And even if you have to pay for the IUD, it might still be worth it cost-wise if you’re planning to have it for a while.
And now, your moment of awkward, IUD-related zen.
*NOTE: Mirena’s manufacturers say it lasts up to 5 years, but in Europe it’s approved for up to 7. ParaGard’s manufacturers claim it can be used for up to 10 years, but studies have shown it’s effective for up to 12. For more on why manufacturers’ labels might not always reflect the latest research, check out our article “What’s in a birth control label?”
So much love for this Hairpin article on IUDs (a.k.a. “sperm scarecrows”)
We found this fabulous post from Lola over at The Hairpin a little late to the game (it was published on March 12th), but in case you missed it like we did, we’ve pasted our favorite of favorite part here. Read the excerpt and then check out the article in its entirety—yes, we love it for its Bedsider shout-out and construction paper infographic, but it’s so much more than that…
Depending on what graph comparing IUD use by country you’re looking at, our rate of 5.5% is either “very low” or “dead last,” even though the usage rate almost doubled between 2002 and 2008. This is to say: if you want an IUD, you might still have to safari into medical self-advocacy. A common species you’ll find there is a well-meaning clinician who thinks they’re preventing you from harm: you can tell them by their suggestion that you first try another “less drastic” method, like the pill. They’re most likely just under-informed, so you can go so far as to furnish research like ACOG’s recommendation that IUDs be offered to most women as first-line contraception. Or share this thought experiment!
“You’re sick and there’s two treatments: a device that sets up in minutes and works for years and a pill that’s only as effective as the device if you take at same time every day forever, which is actually so difficult that31% of users fail at in the first 6 months. Wouldn’t you be like, ‘Fucking give me the easy thing!’ (put on sunglasses) So why is preventing pregnancy so different that you wouldn’t treat with the most effective, least likely to fail treatment first?” (drive away in red convertible)
Every provider has a different risk tolerance. It’s possible that the reason they don’t want to insert a Mirena is because they’ve never done it for someone without kids before. If someone says they won’t insert an IUD for you, they should able to tell you where they’re coming from and give you suggestions about other options to consider. But also be on the lookout for clinicians who make their recommendations against scientific evidence to rationalize their own moral beliefs. You’ll know this species when any questioning about why the IUD can’t happen for you is dismissed with a moral judgment, like “you have too much sex” or “because you’re not married.” Say thank you, disarm them with one of those hoods you put on birds to make them sleep, and switch to someone else in their practice. Or another practice entirely!
Who Uses Birth Control, Anyway?
A lot of people do (no news to us). Some of them started using the hashtag #iusebirthcontrol on Friday as part of a response to news that religious groups are pushing for broader exemptions to the new health reform provision that would make birth control coverage without co-pays mandatory for most health insurance plans.
Being the birth control nerds we are, we’re excited at this unexpected glimpse of the contraceptive preferences of real women and wanted to highlight a few favorites we’ve seen over the past few days. Enjoy, and share your favorite #Iusebirthcontrol tweets in the comments!
Some things are worth fighting for. @salamandrina73: @IAmDrTiller I was on the Pill for 14 years, and I fought my insurance like hell to get my Paragard IUD this year. #iusebirthcontrol
Let’s hear it for doubling up! (And technology.) @MissTVotes: @IAmDrTiller #iusebirthcontrol Nuvaring+condoms! <3 I only have to remember it 2x/month & there’s even a desktop app for it!
Birth control can have perks besides pregnancy prevention. @elizabr0: @PPact #iusebirthcontrol because my periods are irregular, painful, and tend to last more than a week. Virgin or not, I NEEDED BC.
@crankenwedge: @PPact #iusebirthcontrol to reduce acne that causes scarring. #bcrefusal
@pdxfashionista: #iusebirthcontrol I use the pill continuously for severe dysmenorrhea. Been on it for 11 years. Otherwise I’d be anemic and debilitated.
@APBBlue: @IAmDrTiller I stopped the Pill because of migraines. ParaGard for 4 years now. I freaking LOVE IT. #iusebirthcontrol
Some people don’t want kids. Period. @alaskalainen: #iusebirthcontrol because my husband & I enjoy life as a family of 2 - and because 7 billion is a LOT of people
And some just want to be ready. @SquatLikeALady: #iusebirthcontrol because I am married, work FT, am a FT student & want to wait to have kids until I can stay home with them for a few yrs!
@pazenlavida: #iusebirthcontrol B/c overachievers like me want to make sure their pregnancies are better than yours. We gotta plan that ish & be ready.
Knowing yourself is a beautiful thing. @Girarf: @PPact #iusebirthcontrol b/c I’m emotionally and financially ready to have an IUD, not a baby!
@sondi_hardy: @PPact #iusebirthcontrol because i am a proactive, sexually active, responsible young woman. thank you for helping me stay healthy!
And did we mention that planning rocks? @marissaRgarcia: #iusebirthcontrol 42 reasons I love sex & I want control over the consequences of my decisions. I don’t leave anything 2 chance.