Decisions about birth control can be very stressful. Although birth control pills are praised widely on television commercials, magazine and internet ads, not all women react so positively to birth control in their system. Not all women act like the actresses in the commercials. We often see women coming to us complaining about changes in their desire and arousal patterns. We also see women coming to us complaining about vaginal pain and we often find these women are on birth control pills and have been for many years.
Here at the Center we are always searching for the best methods of birth control with the least amount of side effects. There is no universal answer, what works for one woman may not work for another woman. I have already blogged about Natural Family Planning, a form of birth control has zero side effects. However, some women find it time consuming, confusing and cumbersome. Today, I’d like to talk about the IUD.
The IUD or Intrauterine Device is making a well-deserved comeback. Right now, there are two kinds on the market: Mirena and Paraguard. In the past, IUDs were only recommended for women who were done having children since IUDs were correlated with a high risk of infection as well as a risk for infertility from these infections. For these reasons, the use of IUDs declined drastically in the 1970s and 1980s and left the IUD with a bad rap. That particular IUD was called the Dalkon Shield, and was taken off the market. Further research has shown that in the past women were not screened for sexually transmitted infections before insertion, and the process of insertion carried infection higher into the reproductive tract which led to infertility; it was not necessarily caused by the device itself.
No method of birth control is foolproof, but the IUD is highly effective at preventing pregnancy. The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals lists pregnancy rates among IUD users as 1 per 100 a year at most, compared with about 3 per 100 for the injection of Depo-Provera, about 8 per 100 for the pill and about 15 per 100 for the condom.
IUDs do not protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Condoms should still be used to prevent STIs if a woman is unsure if her partner has an STI or if either person has multiple sex partners.
Overall, we have seen a positive response in our patients who have stopped birth control pills and had an IUD inserted. Both IUDs are estrogen-free. It is known that estrogen based contraception is associated with sexual side effects, including decreased desire, arousal and increased pain. If you are experiencing any of these side effects, I encourage you to discuss this with your ob/gyn.
I will write more about the two different types of IUDs next time…