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Published on October 05, 2015

Not Your Mother’s IUD: 4 Myths Dispelled

Women have many forms of contraceptives at their disposal so that they can choose one that works best for their individual health and needs. But some women shy away from one type: Intrauterine devices (IUDs).

IUDs are shaped like a “T” and are a little bigger than a quarter. An IUD gets placed in the uterus and prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs.

“Some studies believe IUDs work by making the cervical mucus impermeable to sperm, thereby preventing sperm from ever reaching the uterus,” said Dr. Mara Thur, an Abington-Jefferson Health obstetrician-gynecologist. “IUDs are also thought to make sperm less mobile. Progesterone-based IUDs change the endometrial lining, creating an environment not conducive to implantation.”

IUDs are safe and effective, but there are many myths about them that deter women from considering them. Here’s what you should know:

1. They don’t cause infertility.

IUDs and their approach have changed greatly in the last 15 to 20 years.

“In the past, IUDs got a bad reputation for causing pelvic infections and infertility. This is absolutely not the case in this day and age,” Dr. Thur said.

There have been some cases of IUDs causing an infection in the uterus when they’re inserted, but Dr. Thur said that’s exceedingly rare.

2. Women who haven’t had children can use IUDs.

“Any reproductive age woman – regardless of whether she’s had children or not – could potentially be a candidate for an IUD,” Dr. Thur said.

3. IUDs aren’t painful.

Every person has a different threshold for pain, but IUD insertion and removal typically isn’t painful.

“It’s a quick in-office procedure that generally takes about 10 minutes. We recommend all patients take ibuprofen about 30 minutes prior to their procedure. Women often experience mild cramping during and directly after the procedure, but otherwise do quite well,” Dr. Thur said.

4. IUDs don’t cause abortions.

There are some myths that IUDs cause abortions, but that’s simply not true. With the use of an IUD, a woman can’t become pregnant in the first place.

“All IUDs do most of their work before fertilization and all before implantation. Therefore, IUDs do not cause abortions,” she said.

IUDs are a long-acting reversible contraceptive and, depending on the type of IUD, can provide contraception for up to 10 years.

“When counseling patients, we always ask about their reproductive plans. If a woman is planning on getting pregnant in the next year, then we would probably steer her toward a shorter acting contraceptive. But if she is looking for something longer term, IUDs are always at the top of the list of recommended contraceptive tools,” she said.

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