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The Forgotten Birth Control: IUDs

IUDs

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

I about hurled when less than 6 hours after giving birth to my first child my midwife asked me what I wanted to do for birth control. Give a girl a break!

By the time my six week postpartum checkup rolled around, I was more prepared to make that decision. Having a newborn that didn’t sleep (and with no end to that habit in sight), I knew taking any medication at the same time every day was out of the question. I ended up opting for an IUD because I could literally get it put in and then forget about it for five years (if I so chose). Plus, with my insurance I paid for it once and then didn’t owe anything else until I needed a new one. It cost about what one pack of pills might.

I was surprised at my own decision based on what I had heard about IUDs, or intrauterine devices. The fact that you had to have already given birth to have one worried me. (This isn’t a requirement anymore. It’s even recommended for adolescents.) I’d heard horror stories about infections, tearing, and the device implanting in the wrong place. But after doing my research I felt comfortable with the decision.

IUDs are more than 99% effective, which weeks after pushing out a baby sounds like a pretty good statistic. While there is a slight risk of infection, or more specifically pelvic inflammatory disease, it’s not what popular belief may make you think. The brand of IUD that earned this reputation is no longer on the market. The maker of one of the two most commonly used IUDs today, Mirena, said that only 1% of users experience an infection.

Another bonus of IUDs? They last a long, long time, but are still a reversible option. Mirena, a hormonal IUD lasts up to five years. ParaGuard, a copper IUD lasts up to 10. IUDs are the most popular form of birth control worldwide, yet the percentage of women using them in the US is in the single digits.

Why the hesitation? The previously mentioned risk of infection is one reason. Another reason is initial cost. Apparently I got lucky (for once) with my insurance and the low cost for an IUD. I have friends whose insurance companies will cover the insertion cost, but not an ultrasound to check placement. (I didn’t have one of these, which perhaps is why my costs were reasonable. Who knows?!)

But even if it costs a bit more upfront, if you do the math of a pack of pills or a ring for every month for five to ten years, the savings are huge.

Another reason women may fear the IUD? The fact that it lasts so long. But just because it can last 5 to 10 years, doesn’t mean it has to. If you decide you want to have a child before that, you can simply have the IUD removed. There isn’t a lag time for when you can get pregnant after having an IUD like there may be with other forms of birth control, so you don’t need to plan months upon months in advance.

I’m not going to lie. Getting the device put in is no picnic, but compared to a natural childbirth it was a breeze.

Next time you’re making the important decision about how to prevent pregnancy, consider looking into the option of an IUD.

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