Despite the fact that intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are extremely effective forms of birth control, one expert thinks many women don't have all the facts when considering the option.
Ob-gyn Dr. M. Kathleen Borchardt, from Houston Methodist Health System, is hoping to set the record straight with five basic facts about IUDs.
First off, when your doctor puts an IUD in place in the uterus, it's tolerable, even if it can be a bit uncomfortable, she said.
"A woman will feel some mild to moderate pain, similar to intense cramps, for about 30 seconds during IUD placement, but there are ways to make you more comfortable," Borchardt explained in a Houston Methodist news release.
"First, your doctor can ease anxiety by walking you through each step of the procedure. Taking an over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, before placement can help. In some cases, your doctor can also prescribe something to help make placement easier. We do not want women to avoid IUDs because of these fears, so please talk to your doctor about your concerns and ways they can help decrease discomfort," she said.
Secondly, there are two main IUD formats. One is hormonal and the other comes in a non-hormonal copper form.
"As with any birth control, there will always be an adjustment period," said Borchardt. "With the hormonal IUD, some women experience side effects such as irregular bleeding and spotting for three to six months, but then many women experience lighter or no periods at all. Some report changes in mood or acne, but these are less common and there are ways your doctor can help with these possible side effects."
Thirdly, complications are rare. "Expulsions, or the IUD falling out of place, occurs in less than 0.5%-8% of women who have an IUD," Borchardt said. "The risk of pelvic inflammatory disease is rare, occurring in 1% of women.
"The most serious complication is perforation of the uterus, which occurs when the IUD punctures the uterine wall," Borchardt said. "However, this complication is rare, occurring in 0.1% of women, and it can be easily prevented by checking IUD location immediately after placement using an ultrasound."
Fourth, IUDs have no long-term impact on fertility. "When you have your IUD removed," she noted, "your fertility will return to what is normal for your body, just like any other form of contraceptive."
And lastly, IUDs can help with heavy periods. "It is the only form of birth control that can help with heavy bleeding," said Borchardt.
The upshot: "Every woman should pick the birth control option that is right for her," she said, "but I don't want women to be afraid of IUDs. They are a fantastic option for busy women who want effective birth control that they don't have to think about or remember to take."
In fact, they are more than 99% effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies, Borchardt noted.
There's more information about IUDs at Planned Parenthood.