By Ashley Kirkwood, MD
La Porte Physicians Women’s Care
One form of birth control that has been widely publicized lately is the Intrauterine Device, or IUD. Companies that make IUDs are doing a lot of marketing directly to women, prompting new questions about IUDs. Here’s a Q&A with La Porte Physicians Obstetrician/Gynecologist Ashley Kirkwood.
Q: What is an IUD?
A: An IUD is a small birth control device that is usually T-shaped. It is placed by a doctor into the uterus during an office visit, and provides long-acting, reversible birth control. IUDs contain either copper or a hormone, and are one of the most effective forms of birth control.
Q: Is it true that you can only have an IUD if you’ve already had a baby?
A: No. An IUD called Skyla is specifically designed for women who have never been pregnant. It is very similar to the Mirena IUD, but is smaller and lasts for three years instead of five. A third common IUD is Paragard, which lasts for about 10 years. Mirena and Skyla have a hormone called levonorgestrol, and Paragard is copper-based with no hormones.
Q: What are the risks of IUDs?
A: All birth control methods have risk. A woman should work with her doctor to balance the risks and benefits of any birth control method, and choose the one that is best for her. Overall, IUDs are a very safe and highly effective. The most serious risk is uterine perforation, where the IUD can move outside of the uterus into the abdominal cavity, requiring surgery to remove it. The frequency of uterine perforation is about one in 1000, so it is uncommon. IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Q: Can you get an IUD if you have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or Endometriosis?
A: The short answer is yes. A single episode of PID shouldn’t prevent you from getting an IUD, but if you have recurrent PID it might not be the best choice. Regarding endometriosis, an IUD may be an excellent method of birth control, as it can actually help suppress the cyclic pain that women suffer from when they have endometriosis. IUDs today are made with a different type of string that does not cause PID infections as some IUDs were thought to in the 1970s. Rates of PID for women with an IUD versus without one are very similar.
Q: How common are IUDs?
A: IUD use has steadily increased in the US over the last ten years, and they are the most common form of contraception in Europe. I provide my patients with IUDs about 3-4 times a week.