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October 24, 2021

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Contemplating Contraception: The Benefits of An Intrauterine Device

Weekend doctor

Dr. Jessica Lafyatis
Blanchard Valley Obstetrics & Gynecology

There are several types of contraception available to women. These vary in efficacy, side effects and satisfaction rates. Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) is the most effective birth control and includes intrauterine devices (IUD) and subdermal implants. The major advantage of LARCs compared with other contraception is that they do not require taking a pill every day or doing something each time before having sex. By removing the element of human error, these devices are over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. LARCs are reversible, which means after the device is removed, fertility can return rapidly.

There are currently five IUDs on the market in the United States. Four of these IUDs contain hormones (a type of progesterone) and differ in the amount of hormone and length of use (3-6 years). Though the amount of hormone that reaches the bloodstream is low, rarely do women experience side effects such as headaches, breast tenderness, or nausea, but these symptoms typically resolve. An advantage of the hormonal IUDs is lighter and less crampy menstrual cycles. The other IUD is the copper IUD (Paragard), which contains no hormones and can last 10 years. The most common side effect from the copper IUD is heavy and painful menstrual cycles, but they typically improve in a few months. The subdermal implant (Nexplanon) is a single rod-shaped device that is placed on the inside of the upper arm. It prevents pregnancy for three years. The most common side effect with Nexplanon is unscheduled bleeding - bleeding in between menstrual cycles. The bleeding is not heavy but can be bothersome to some women. Overall, LARCs are safe and effective and have the highest continuation rates among users.

It is important to discuss birth control options with your health care provider before becoming sexually active. Together, you can decide which method is best for you. Considering that almost half of all pregnancies in the united states are unplanned, it is important to choose a birth control method that is effective and one that will be continued until you are ready to become pregnant.