Q: Is it safe for me to use an IUD if I haven’t had any babies yet?
A: Even though they’re not as popular as other forms of birth control, IUD’s (intra-uterine devices) are a very safe and effective option for birth control, especially in women who find it hard to remember to take a pill every day or come in for a shot every 3 months.
In the past, IUD’s were restricted to women who already had children and were in a monogamous relationship because of concerns that women with multiple partners were at a higher risk of getting a pelvic infection that could lead to future infertility. But as long as a woman doesn’t have an infection at the time of the IUD insertion, her risk of pelvic infection is no higher than if she used other forms of birth control. Remember – we’re talking about infection due to the IUD here. IUD’s do NOT provide any protection from sexually transmitted infections, so always keep the condoms handy.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recently recommended IUD’s for all women who seek a safe, effective, long-term contraception option – this includes adolescents, women who haven’t had any children yet, even women with a history of tubal pregnancy or pelvic infection. You don’t need to take antibiotics at the time of insertion and the copper-containing IUD (there are two types) can even be used up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Again, as long as there is no pelvic infection at the time of insertion, an IUD really is a safe and easy option.
ACOG also recommends another good option for long-term birth control – Implanon. Implanon is a small rod that is inserted just beneath the skin of the inner aspect of the upper arm under local anesthetic. We do it right here at the Student Health Center. It works by inhibiting ovulation and thickening the cervical mucus and it lasts for 3 years. It is about the size of a pencil lead and releases a progestin hormone called etonogestrel. Implanon is safe, convenient and 99% effective. It needs to be removed after 3 years, but a new rod can be implanted at the time of removal.
If you have any questions about birth control, come in and talk to the Women’s Services staff at the Student Health Center. We know how to manage all the various options and will help you find the best one for your lifestyle!
Ryo Choi-Pearson, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University