Beyond the Pill: IUD Use Rising in the U.S.

I have an IUD (intra-uterine device) and I love it. After trying many different contraceptive options over the years – the pill, the ring, the patch – I can finally say that I have found a birth control method that meets all of my needs with no noticeable side effects, and I’m not the only one. According to the Guttmacher Institute and Family Health International, IUD use is on the rise in the U.S. across income levels and ethnicities. The report cites a variety of factors to explain the fact that IUD use is at its highest level since the early 1980s – over 2 million use it – but most compelling, in my opinion, is increasing public knowledge around the benefits of IUDs and clarity about who can use this method.

If you’re like me, you want reliable birth control that you don’t have to think about on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. I thought about Depo-Provera because the contraceptive injection offered longer protection (three months) but I’d heard too many horror stories about the injection’s side effects. Any method whose effectiveness heavily depended on human error was a no-no as well. A significant number of women become pregnant while using birth control imperfectly, with approximately 48% of women experiencing unintended pregnancy while having used contraception in the month of conception, according to the report.

An IUD seemed like the natural choice given my requirements but, like many other young women, I was told that you couldn’t get the IUD if you hadn’t previously given birth. I read scary things about IUDs perforating the uterus, getting “lost” in the abdomen and ectopic pregnancies because of those little pieces of plastic. After learning that several of my young lady friends had IUDs and were all satisfied with their choice, I did some research of my own. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “IUDs offer safe, effective, long-term contraception,” that is not nearly as reliant on perfect use as other methods. Respected organizations like ACOG, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control all agree that IUD use may be appropriate for women under the age of 18 and/or those who have never given birth.

More awareness around IUDs as a reliable, long-term method has definitely contributed to the increase in U.S. users but cost has been a significant factor as well. Upfront costs of a copper or hormonal IUD can range from $500 – $1,000. Fortunately, private insurers and state Medicaid programs are increasingly recognizing the long-term cost-savings associated with IUDs and covering the high cost of insertion.

Think an IUD might be right for you? Check out this video to learn more about how the two types of IUDs work.

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