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?”
I talk about IUDs a lot (in real life and on this blog), and it came as a huge surprise when I brought up my own to a close friend and they had never heard of it before. Re-posting for all the people out there who may have missed it along the way or know somebody else who has.