The intrauterine device, or IUD, is a very popular form of birth control in other countries, but American women use it much less often. The reason that this easy and reliable pregnancy prevention strategy isn’t more popular probably has to do with some myths that make IUDs seem risky. Have you heard that IUDs can make you infertile or mess up your insides in a serious way? While some IUD myths have their basis in a bit of fact, many of them are total falsehoods. Check out the statements below and see whether you can separate fact from fiction.
Myth or Truth? IUDs Cause Abortions
Myth. Let’s say it together: IUDs are birth control. One more time for the people in the back: IUDs are birth control! Often misrepresented, IUDs occasionally are lumped in with abortifacients, a term used for drugs that cause abortions.
This is not how IUDs work.The copper IUD works as a spermicide, killing sperm before it reaches the egg. Hormone-based IUDs release the hormone progestin, which thickens cervical mucus, making it impossible for sperm to enter the uterus. In both of these situations, the IUD kicks into action before fertilization occurs, putting the IUD squarely in the category of contraceptive, not abortifacient. In rare cases when sperm does manage to reach an egg despite the presence of an IUD, the device will prevent implantation from happening, but a fertilized egg isn’t a pregnancy until it has implanted in the uterus.
Myth or Truth? IUDs Increase Your Risk of Infertility
Myth, though it has its roots in truth. An early IUD called the Dalkon Shield did lead to infertility, and worse, in some women. Infections caused by the Dalkon Shield in some cases meant that when women later tried to get pregnant they couldn’t, or had an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. But today’s IUDs are different, and studies show that women who use IUDs do not have an increased risk of infertility, ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage compared to women who don’t use IUDs.
Myth or Truth? IUDs are Better for Women Who Have Been Pregnant Before
This one is somewhat true. Although plenty of women who’ve never been pregnant happily use IUDs, the insertion process can be more painful in women who’ve never given birth, because after giving birth a woman’s uterus tends to enlarge slightly, making the insertion process easier. But regardless of whether or not you’ve had a baby, IUD insertion can be painful and doctors suggest you take painkillers, OTC or even prescription, before the procedure.
Myth or Truth? IUDs Aren’t As Effective as Other Birth Control Methods
Myth! The truth is that IUDs are effective more than 99% of the time, which is better or equal to other methods. While some other methods are that effective with perfect use it can be hard to use the pill or patch perfectly, but with the IUD there’s nothing to remember.
Myth or Truth? IUDs Stop Your Periods
Truth, in some cases. While the copper IUD does not stop your periods, the hormonal IUD typically lightens and even stops monthly bleeding. This happens because the progestin released by the hormonal IUD suppresses build up of the uterine lining. However, with both IUDs, you may notice slight changes to your cycle at the beginning of use. During the first few months after insertion, all types of IUDs are associated with heavier periods, irregular periods, and additional cramps. That should all subside after the first three to six months.
Myth or Truth? IUD Strings Are Dangerous
Myth. IUD strings are completely safe, now. But the belief that IUD strings can hurt you has its basis in that disastrous early 1970’s IUD, the Dalkon shield. This IUD featured a string containing hundreds of nylon fibers wrapped around each other. This design made the string extra strong, but its size allowed bacteria to enter the uterus, leading to infections, sepsis, miscarriages, and even infertility or hysterectomies.
IUDs still contain strings, which allow doctors to remove the IUD, but the strings are now much smaller and safer. Ideally, you should check that your IUD is in place by feeling the strings at least once a month. They are at the top of your uterus and feel like floss. Some men claim they can feel the strings during sex, but most partners don’t experience any discomfort. If you have issues, ask your doctor or midwife to cut your strings shorter.
Myth or Truth? Getting an STI While Using an IUD is Extra-Risky
There is some truth to this one. As our friends at Bedsider explain, if you have an undiagnosed STI and get an IUD inserted you are at increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) a condition which can threaten your fertility. That’s why it’s smart to get tested for STIs before you get an IUD inserted, and many doctors will require you to take an STI test before they’ll perform the procedure. But after you’ve had the IUD in place for 20 days your risk of getting PID from an STI is the same as that of a woman without an IUD. Regardless, you should be tested for STIs at least once a year, and more often if you have a new partner or are unsure of a partner’s STI status.
How did you separating IUD fact from fiction? Could you tell the myths from truths?
If you’re looking for a new birth control methods, check out Nurx. While Nurx doesn’t offer IUDs, since they have to be inserted by a physician, you can request a prescription for birth control pills or the birth control patch, ring, or shot and the Nurx medical team will prescribe it online and have it sent to your door.
About the Author
With over a decade of content writing experience, Kari Brummond can write about any topic under the sun, and she loves helping people make informed choices about how to be safe while expressing their sexuality.
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of Nurx™.