By Rick Bartell
When we talk about birth control there is a little T-shaped piece of plastic that is getting a rebirth of sorts. Years ago the IUD (intrauterine device) got a bad name for itself, and rightly so, because of a flawed design. Since then the IUD has gone through a renaissance of sorts and is now growing in popularity.
First, let’s start with the basics. The IUD is a T-shaped piece of plastic that gets inserted into the uterus and messes with the way sperm can move and prevents them from fertilizing an egg. There are five brands of IUDs in the United States and of those there are two main types, the hormonal and non-hormonal.
There are four types of hormonal IUDs available and all are made of plastic and all release a small amount of the synthetic hormone, progestin. This hormone thickens the cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching the uterus. Depending on the brand, these methods can effectively prevent pregnancy from between three and six years and possibly make your periods lighter. There is only one IUD without hormones, Paragard. Paragard doesn’t affect your periods, since no hormones are released, and can work effectively for up to 12 years.
There are many advantages to the IUD as a birth control method. If you are a busy person you don’t have to worry about taking a pill every day. It is a very private method, no one can tell you have an IUD. There isn’t anything to do just before having sex, and you can return to fertility very fast after it is removed. Also, unlike older IUDs, most doctors agree that if you are healthy and have a uterus you are a likely candidate for one. One down side is the cost. Yet, if you have health insurance chances are good that you’ll be covered. If you don’t have insurance it still is very cost effective when looking at over the timeframe you are protected.
So, if you are shopping around for an effective (99 percent effective) birth control method, take a second look at the IUD. It really isn’t your mother’s IUD any longer.
Rick Bartell has worked for over 23 years in the area of sexual health education. He currently acts a consult to a number of area nonprofits. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or ideas for future columns.