Don’t Like The Pill? Try Non-Hormonal Contraception

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank working to advance sexual and reproductive health worldwide, the typical heterosexual US woman desiring an ideal 2.5 children will use birth control for roughly three decades of her life. Three decades is a serious investment that deserves some detailed research.

The most popular method of contraception is by far that of the hormonal flavor, ie. birth control pills. But for a myriad reasons the pill and its cohort of hormonal contraception methods just doesn’t work for all women. Some women have tried every formula of hormonal contraception in existence with bitter side effects. As a class, hormonal contraceptives are slightly more effective in preventing pregnancy (given perfect use, of course) than are non-hormonal methods. But for some women the effectiveness drawback associated with certain methods of non-hormonal contraceptives is a non-issue when compared to the all-too-real hormonal side effects. Two methods of non-hormonal contraception that are just as effective as hormonal methods without the side effects are the copper IUD and sterilization.

Sterilization is a permanent form of contraception, so it’s not always the best option for younger women or those looking to hold on to the potential for children in the future, but the copper intrauterine device (IUD) is not permanent and has the added benefit of being just as effective as hormonal methods. The IUD is a small, plastic T-shaped device that is placed inside the uterus by a health practitioner, typically when a woman is menstruating and pregnancy is least likely and the cervix is slightly open, making insertion easier. There is a string that extends from the device down through the cervix and into the very upper most part of the vagina. These strings are handy for checking that the IUD is properly in place. The device isn’t usually noticeable during sex, and while it doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections, it is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. The IUD affects the movement of sperm and egg preventing fertilization and also causes the uterus to shed its lining preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. It is one of the most cost effective forms of reversible contraception – the device typically costs $250 plus an additional fee for the insertion, but it is covered by most insurance companies and last for ten years.

The IUD is the second most widely used method of birth control in the world, but has largely been shunned in the United States. It got a bad rap in the1970s when the Dalkon Shield IUD was found to be unsafe. It caused pelvic inflammatory infections among users and resulted in the deaths of twenty women. The manufacturers were sued, and eventually they declared bankruptcy, but not before spreading the love to the international community. After the manufactures were hit with lawsuits over the device’s dangerous complications, they offered the IUD at a large discount to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) which happily shipped them abroad to be used by more expendable women. Regulation at its finest. Horrific true tales from the past aside, IUDs on the market today are not only new and improved, they were also tested and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – happy day.

Ms. Skeptical

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