Friday, November 21, 2008

Q: Is an IUD a sexually transmitted disease? A: No

The Paragard IUD

Dear Go-To Girl,

What's an IUD? I met this girl who said she had one and I got freaked out. Does that mean she has warts on her hoo-hoo?

All I got was "Abstinence"

The Mirena IUD

Dear AA,

You poor thing. You missed a golden opportunity because the intrauterine device (IUD) is actually the most effective birth control method available! You could've banged away to your heart's content. But, alas, these devices are relatively uncommon in the U.S. and with the state of sex education, it's no surprise that you thought "IUD" meant "disease."

Here's the deal: an IUD is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus through the cervix (ouch!). There are two IUDs available and they work slightly differently: The Paragard has copper wire wrapped around it that affects enzymes in the uterus, making it a hostile environment for any fertilized eggs. The Mirena releases a tiny amount of progesterone that prevents ovulation.

Now for the mysterious part: the presence of either IUD in the uterus essentially makes the body think that since there's some foreign object inside, that it can't support a pregnancy. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true.

The IUD is more effective than sterilization. Seriously. The Paragard lasts at least ten years (but you can keep it in longer) and the Mirena lasts five years. They're pretty pricey to start with if your insurance doesn't cover the device (like $200 or so) but spread out over five or ten years, they're the cheapest method out there.

The IUD has a little piece of string (fishing line, basically) that hangs out through the cervix so you can make sure it's still in place. If you contract an STI and don't get treated, this string slightly increases the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease which can, if untreated, lead to infertility. So use condoms, get tested, get treatment if you wind up with an STI.

Side effects include cramping (which, with the Mirena, is more mild than Paragard) and heavier periods, but that's it. None of that birth control pill weight gain or libido loss or generalized craziness. Some women expel the IUD but that's a pretty uncommon occurrence.

If you want to get an IUD, you'll probably have to convince your doctor that you've done your homework. So research the Paragard here and the Mirena here. And if you decide it's the right method for you, don't take no for an answer.

Go-To Girl (I Heart Paragard)


Princess Brookitha said...

Hey gtg,
I got my Mirena IUD at Planned Parenthood in Manhattan. They told my they would love to put one in every fertile female. I have never had children (and oft cited reason why they don't want to give them out), but they PPNYC me an IUD anyway and, because I don't have a job, they did it for free.
So...tell the ladies, if their doctors are not cooperating, got to planned parenthood. The pricing is reasonable and the nurses are lovely, AND they wont give you any crap about it.

Thanks for all the great advice and info!
Much Love,

Anonymous said...

Also important is that the IUD is also one of the only effective methods of NON-hormonal birth control (Mirena is extra low-dose hormones).

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