The intrauterine device (IUD) is the most effective, reversible form of contraception – the failure rate is 1%. For the record, the pill has a failure rate of 3-15% depending on how good a pill taker you turn out to be!
Unfortunately, IUDs are underused in the United States; less than 3% of American women use this method compared with 20% of women in Europe.
Why are American women less likely to use an IUD? There are many misconceptions about the IUD, most likely related to the Dalkon shield, a very unsafe IUD that was available in the 1970s and should never have received FDA approval. Modern IUDs (the ParaGard and the Mirena) have been well-studied and have excellent safety records.
So let’s dispel some IUD myths:
Myth #1: The IUD can give me an infection in my uterus.
Untrue. The risk of getting an infection in the first three months after an IUD is inserted is less than 1%. IUDs also do not increase the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease (STD) if you are exposed after it is inserted. However, an IUD should not be inserted if a woman has untreated gonorrhea or chlamydia. If you are at risk for STDs, get tested a week or two before you plan on having the IUD inserted (you can drop off a urine sample and avoid and gyno visits and an extra copay).
Myth #2: The IUD will scar my tubes and make me infertile.
Untrue. A large study published several years ago in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at more than 1,500 women who had infertility due to scarred fallopian tubes – there was no relation to past IUD use. A previous infection with chlamydia is the biggest risk factor for this form of infertility. STDs scar tubes, plain and simple.