Debunking myths about IUDs

There are many options when it comes to contraception.

Roses are red, violets are blue. There are many myths about IUDs; here’s what’s true.

An intrauterine device (IUD) is another form of contraception or birth control. Now, “device” may sound scary, but don’t worry. 

The IUD is a small T-shaped device, usually made out of soft, flexible plastic, that’s similar in size to an Apple earbud. They’re either hormonal or non-hormonal and get inserted by a doctor or healthcare professional into the vagina. 

IUDs are more than 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy. They’re also a reversible and long-term form of contraception, with some lasting as long as 10 years. However, like other contraceptives, the IUD doesn’t protect against STI’s when used alone. All in all, it’s among the most effective birth control options to date.

The hormonal IUD (e.g. Mirena) is estrogen free, contains only synthetic hormones and can be inserted for up to five years. It works by thickening the cervical mucous so sperm can’t physically cross through to the egg or implant itself. Due to the concentrations of hormones in a localized area, individuals may experience lighter or no periods while the IUD is inserted. This is perfectly natural and safe.

The non-hormonal IUD has copper coiled around the device. This copper acts as a natural spermicide by making the uterus and fallopian tubes toxic to sperm. Because this particular IUD is hormone free, it’s ideal for anyone who’s breastfeeding or allergic to estrogen. It can also be used as an emergency contraception.

Unfortunately, most of the information out there about IUDs is from the 1960s and 1980s and is vastly outdated. This has led to a ton of myths and misinformation

Myth 1: IUD insertion is always painful

It all depends on the person. Some people report feeling pain, while others say with the local anaesthetic you can hardly feel the flexible material being inserted. There’s typically an adjustment period after insertion where your body gets used to the new device and this may cause symptoms such as cramping. 

If you’re concerned with potential pain, you can try scheduling the insertion when your cervix is naturally a little more open, such as during your period or during ovulation; this could alleviate some discomfort. If you do experience continual discomfort, ibuprofen and a heating pad can also help.

Myth 2: My partner will definitely feel it during sex 

Unlikely. The IUD is placed safely inside the uterus at the very top. The plastic strings — which are attached to the bottom of the device — run through the cervix to the outside of the vagina, but are often tucked to the sides and are out of the way. The average vagina is also about six inches long and the cervix is at the very top. The majority of partners won’t feel it and it shouldn’t cause any discomfort during sex. Should you experience any discomfort, be sure you talk to your doctor.

Myth 3: IUDs cause infertility 

Definitely not. If you remove the IUD, it’s 100 per cent reversible. However, if you’re looking to get pregnant immediately after removing the IUD, it may be a little more difficult because there’s often an adjustment period afterwards. 

Myth 4: The IUD will cause an ectopic pregnancy 

Ectopic pregnancies are actually more rare in IUD users than in individuals who don’t use contraception. The most serious complications associated with the IUD, such as ectopic pregnancy and pelvic inflammatory disease, occurred in less than ONE per cent of women, according to research by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Where can I get one?

IUDs are prescribed the same way as any birth control. As a Queen’s student you can book a consultation appointment at Student Wellness Services to discuss if it’s best for you. Up to 80 per cent of the cost is covered, making it only a little over $100 for up to five years of protection with a Queen’s student health plan

Always remember that there are tons of birth control options, and you should definitely find one that’s right for you.

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