And it’s never too early to do the research, considering contraception options change after you have a baby. (Especially if your former birth control strategies didn’t — ahem — work out so well the last time.)
Some women are very nervous about the idea of an IUD, which is a T-shaped device placed in your uterus, but there might be benefits you’re unaware of — including possibly reducing your risk of cancer:
1. You don’t want to get pregnant right away.
For those able to breastfeed, your birth control options are even more limited now that combination birth control pills that contains estrogen (read: pretty much every oral contraception on the market) are suddenly off the table. If you really love your Pills, your only option will be the progestin-only Minipill. Yet you have to be much more diligent at taking it at the same exact time every day. If you’re forgetful like me (and like most new moms with mounding responsibilities), this might cause a problem. And as we all know, breastfeeding doesn’t always prevent pregnancy.
If you’re dead set on not having babies 16 months apart, an IUD is just as effective as sterilization (over 99% effective), yet is fully removable.
2. In fact, you don’t know if you want more kids at all. But you’re still on the fence…
An IUD can be kept in for 5 to 10 years, so you’ll have plenty of time to reassess your family planning situation without going the surgical route. And again, it’s just as effective as sterilization.
3. You’re forgetful.
If you were never good at remembering your pill or replenishing your stash of condoms, an IUD is so incredibly easy. Yes, it has to be implanted by a doctor (meaning you’ll want to have insurance, since it can be pricey), but then you won’t have to worry about it again. (Doctors suggest checking to feel strings in your vagina every now and then, but the odds of it falling out are very rare. However if you do get pregnant with an IUD in your body, it can result in an ectopic pregnancy — so there are risks to consider.)
4. You don’t like the idea of hormones regulating your body.
One of my biggest complains about the pill was the hormonal side effects — mood swings, weight gain, etc. — which is true for most other options like the patch, the ring and shots. And although the very popular Mirena IUD uses progestin (and can result in hormone-related hair loss, libido loss, etc.), there’s another option: the ParaGard. The ParaGard uses copper to prevent sperm from reaching the egg, so obviously you can’t use this if you’re allergic to copper. But there’s absolutely no hormonal regulation whatsoever.
I personally use the ParaGard, and I’m extremely happy with my decision. My periods are heavier and more painful — but it only lasts for one day, rather than a week. I’d rather deal with one or two uncomfortable days than a week of cramps, but that’s up to you to decide.
5. IUDs might reduce your risk of cancer.
New research released today suggests that IUDs may also protect women from cervical cancer. They’re still not exactly sure why — presumably because your body creates an inflammatory response against the foreign object (the IUD), which also attacks the HPV virus (the leading cause of cervical cancer). Previous studies have also shown that IUDs reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. You can read more about this at ABC News.