July 05, 2011
Jill Rabin, MD
IUDs (intra-uterine devices) and hormonal implants are among the most effective reversible birth control available, according to a Practice Bulletin recently released by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
ACOG reflects the experience of many practitioners, including myself: IUDs are safe for use by many reproductive-age women. The unwanted pregnancy rate associated with IUDs is extremely low, and contraception is the initial reason most women use them. IUDs are safe and efficacious, including in women who haven’t had children.
While copper IUDs can remain in place for up to 10 years and hormonal IUDs up to five, it’s important to know that any IUD can be removed at any time. Potential side effects of hormonal IUDs include mood changes, acne, headaches, breast tenderness, pelvic pain and nausea. Copper IUDs have the additional possible side effects of cramping and increased bleeding during menstruation.
The hormonal implant is a small, rod-shaped unit (about the length of a matchstick) that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It releases a progestin hormone which suppresses ovulation for up to three years. With a pregnancy rate of .5 percent, it is the most effective method of reversible contraception available today. It is also one of the most under-utilized.