More women are using the most effective form of birth control than ever
There are several different kinds of contraceptives out there, including the pill, the shot, and non-hormonal methods like the diaphragm, to name a few. Although women have almost universally used birth control at some point (60% are currently while over 99% have in their lifetime), there is a particularly effective method that women are using more than ever: intrauterine devices, also called IUDs, and implants.
According to a recent survey by the Centers of Disease Control, between the years of 2002 and 2013, the number of women using the pill, condoms, and female sterilization have dipped. . . but the number of women using long-acting contraceptives more than quadrupled, with 11.6 percent of women in the United States (4.4 million!) using an intrauterine device or contraceptive implant as their means of birth control.
IUDs and implants, after being inserted, can be reliable for years without any issue, nor without having to be replaced or tampered with a long time; IUDs can remain in place for three to 12years, while the implant prevents pregnancy for three. That means practically no room for human error, while birth controls like the pill have plenty of room for error (although it’s highly effective when taken exactly as prescribed every day, we’ve all forgotten to take the pill one day. . . or two days. . . or several.)
As TIME notes, women in the United States have been slower to accept IUDs and implants than women in other countries — much because of widespread misconceptions that these contraceptions can cause problems. One particular IUD, the Dalkon Shield, rose in popularity in the ’70s, but because of their shape, they were considered to be difficult to insert — and led in some cases to infections and pregnancy. On top of that, incorrect information was spread: That you don’t have to remove the Dalkon Shield if you get pregnant. You do, and this lead to dozens of women miscarrying and passing away.
Since then, the Dalkon Shield is no longer in use, and the company went bankrupt after the government ordering women to stop using it. But the Dalkon Shield did a lot of damage in terms of IUD and implant reputation. Women were afraid to use them, and insurance companies were afraid of the liability. Now, according to TIME, the Dalkon Shield’s ghost still haunts us. Misconceptions still exist about the IUD and implant, with some believing they’re not safe for all women — when really, they’re the most effective contraception.
“These misperceptions are leftovers from 30 years ago,” Dr. Laura MacIsaac, director of the family planning division at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, told TIME. “They have no relevance to the devices of today. These myths persist mostly from physicians’ fears that today’s IUDs still have the same flaws as the old ones. That’s just not true.”
However, although there are still a large amount of women who aren’t using this form of contraceptive, the number is only increasing, senior research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute Megan Kavanaugh told NPR. In plans that are established in the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are required to cover birth control methods. . . including IUDs and implants, which could be part of the reason for their rise in popularity. Another reason: many teenagers and young women are too busy to remember to take a pill every morning, so they turn to the IUD or implant — something more permanent but not as permanent as sterilization.
“We just want to have as broad a mix as possible for all women,” Kavanaugh told NPR, “so they can choose the birth control method that works best for them.”
(Image via Shutterstock.)