Considering IUD for birth control? Here’s how it compares to other forms of contraception like the pill, and how to determine which method is right for you.
How does IUD work?
You’ve probably heard the acronym IUD (short for intra-uterine device), or you might even have heard your girlfriends raving about theirs. So, what exactly is it?
A long-term, reversible mode of contraception, IUD is one of the most effective methods of birth control available, with an over 98 percent success rate of preventing pregnancy, according to DR MICHELLE CHIA of DTAP Clinic (Dr Tan and Partners).
A tiny, T-shaped device attached to a string, the IUD is inserted into the uterus where it sits for up to five years and prevents pregnancy.
The device comes in two varieties: hormonal and non-hormonal. Both are safe and convenient options for women who aren’t looking to conceive in the immediate future but still want that option if they decide they want to get pregnant at the drop of a hat. They’re suitable not only for women who have given birth before, but for those who never have.
The devices work in generally the same way, by altering a woman’s cervical mucus so that sperm can’t swim through it. If the sperm do manage to get past the cervix, the IUD’s active ingredient (copper for non-hormonal IUDs; synthetic progesterone for hormonal IUDs) makes it more challenging for them to reach the uterus. The IUD in the womb itself also makes implantation more difficult.
IUDs are inserted in-clinic and the process only takes around 20 minutes. While it isn’t exactly comfortable, many women do find that the benefits outweigh the temporary discomfort or pain during the insertion process.
“It’s an invasive process that involves instrumentation of the cervical canal and uterus. Hence, we do expect it to hurt a little, or be slightly uncomfortable for the patient,” says Dr Chia. “Different patients have different pain thresholds; some are comfortable with the process, while those with lower pain thresholds experience more pain.”
A follow-up is normally done four weeks after insertion to check the placement and positioning of the IUD, says Dr Chia.
Hormonal or non-hormonal device?
“The suitability of each type will depend on the doctor’s assessment of the patient and their needs,” says Dr Chia. The non-hormonal IUD tends to cause heavier and more painful periods, while the hormonal variety commonly creates irregular spotting or no period at all. So, if you want a lighter period, the latter may be a better option. Conversely, Dr Chia notes that one of the most common reasons patients choose the copper IUD is because they’re not comfortable with the idea of having something hormonal in them. She adds that cost also plays a factor; the hormonal IUD is a lot more costly than the copper one.
Which method of contraception is best for you?
“Unfortunately, the most commonly used form of contraception is still the male condom, which has a very high failure rate, as well as the risk of slipping or breaking,” she says. “Many women are still not well-informed of proper and effective birth control methods, which are actually very safe.”
Long-acting, reversible methods of birth control include hormonal and non-hormonal IUD, as well as an implant, which can last three years. Short-acting, reversible methods include contraceptive patches that are changed weekly, birth control pills taken daily or injections given once every three months.
While no birth control method has a 100 percent guaranteed success rate, Dr Chia says that all these modes of contraception are effective, and all are reversible with no long-term implications on a woman’s ability to conceive later on. Again, it really comes down to the patient’s preferences. “Each form of birth control has its own pros and cons,” says Dr Chia. “Choices will depend on the needs and wants of the individual, as well as her medical history, concurrent medications and lifestyle.
“IUD’s main advantage over other forms of birth control is the convenience of having birth control long-term without having to worry about compliance,” explains Dr Chia.
A woman who wants birth control for a shorter period of time will likely opt for the pill or the patch. “These offer other benefits such as regulating periods, improving period cramps and also preventing cancer, which makes them great and convenient choices for many women,” says Dr Chia.
As for effectiveness, she says contraceptive patches are very effective if used correctly, with an efficacy of over 95 percent in pregnancy prevention. The rate for birth control pills can be as high as 98 to 99 percent, if they’re taken perfectly and regularly.
To find out more about IUD and other forms of birth control, including emergency contraception options, or to schedule an appointment with a doctor, call DTAP Clinic’s Bencoolen clinic (6884 4119) or Robertson Quay clinic (6238 7810), or email email@example.com.
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