More U.S. women are getting IUDs and contraceptive implants, according to a national survey — and many more will likely jump on board this year thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which will cover both hormonal and copper IUDs as well as the implant. That's great, since the devices are vastly more effective than the Pill or condoms because they don't rely on perfect use. ("They are basically ‘set and forget' methods," according to one doctor.)
But the number of U.S. women with IUDs and implants still pale in comparison to those in other countries. The new study found that 8.5 percent of U.S. women chose an IUD or implant over other forms of birth control in 2009, as compared to under four percent in 2007. But in France and Norway, around one-quarter of women use IUDS or implants. In China, 41 percent do. Given that the devices have way lower unintended pregnancy rates than the Pill or condoms — only .2 to .8 percent of women with IUDS and around .05 percent of those with contraceptive implants get unintentionally pregnant, while those who stick with condoms have a frightening 18-21 percent chance — what's the deal?
The main reason why more U.S. women don't use IUDs and implants is probably due to a grievous, longstanding misconception that the devices can cause pelvic infection and infertility; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 30 percent of health providers are unconvinced that IUDs are safe for women who've never given birth, even though it's now known that's untrue. (My gynecologist, who is otherwise awesome, advised me against getting an IUD for those reasons.) The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now heartily endorses IUDs and implants, going as far to say that the devices should be a "first-line" option for most women — but when's the last time you had a close, personal discussion with anyone from ACOG? Exactly.
Then there's the whole money issue; the devices are cost-effective in the long run, but cost hundreds of dollars up front. Now, that won't be a problem for most insured women. (Thanks, Obama!)
But most IUD-wary women I know are concerned less about infertility and expenses and more about painful side effects, like heavy irregular bleeding and cramps. "I'm really happy I got it, but when it was shitty I had to constantly remind myself that it was a 5 year investment," said one friend who got the Mirena IUD in February. "The insertion was probably the most pain I've ever felt in my life, and the week after I felt really down, which is apparently common from the hormones. Then for the next five months, I had constant spotting, which sucked — it was like always being on my period."
Jenna Sauers, who wrote about getting an all-copper non-hormonal IUD in 2010, says she loves her IUD because she doesn't "have to do anything to not get pregnant. It just sits there, silent but deadly to all sperm." She says the only drawback is that her periods are slightly heavier than before and that, "occasionally, I'll have a menstrual cramp where for a second I swear I can "feel" the IUD, like a fist closing around a sharp stone" — but says her cramps aren't that much worse overall.
Are any of you planning on getting IUDs or implants now that you don't have to shell out hundreds of dollars for them? Discuss!
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