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What women need to know about intrauterine device

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:36:00 04/25/2008

Filed Under: Health

MANILA, Philippines?The intrauterine device or IUD is the most popular birth control method in the world, with approximately 160 million women of reproductive age currently using it. In the Philippines, 542,000 married women were using IUDs in 2006, according to the 2006 Family Planning Survey. Despite its popularity, the IUD remains a much-misunderstood method.

The Department of Health (DOH) recognizes the IUD as a legally acceptable and medically safe FP method. In fact, according to the Labor Code of the Philippines, establishments which are required by law to maintain a clinic or infirmary shall provide free family planning services to their employees which shall include, but not limited to, the application or use of contraceptive pills and IUDs.

How an IUD works

The IUD is a device that is placed within the uterus consisting of a T-shaped frame with two strings or threads attached to it. The most popular type is the copper-bearing IUD, which is made of plastic wrapped in copper sleeves or wires.

The IUD is placed in the woman?s uterus through the vagina. Only qualified healthcare providers should place an IUD inside a woman?s uterus. IUDs prevent pregnancy by prompting the endometrium to release leukocytes and prostaglandins, substances which are unreceptive to both sperm and eggs. Copper from copper-bearing IUDs also has a spermicidal effect. An IUD further inhibits the movement of the sperm inside the woman?s reproductive tract, making fertilization difficult. It must remain inside a woman?s uterus as long as she does not want to become pregnant. Removal of IUDs are performed by trained healthcare providers, which is done by gently pulling on one of the exposed strings.

How effective is the IUD?

The popularity of IUDs can be attributed to its effectiveness. All second generation copper-bearing IUDs have a known success rate of more than 99 percent per year, which means that the chances of an IUD user getting pregnant are very low. IUDs also have relatively long-lasting efficacy. A single IUD protects up to five to 10 years.

Aside from its low failure rate and long-lasting effectiveness, IUDs offer other advantages that make it ideal for many women. Unlike pills, there is very little to remember about using IUDs. A user need only to make sure at all times that her IUD is still in place by checking on the strings attached to the device.

The safety of IUDs is well-proven. IUDs, particularly the copper-bearing-type, have no hormonal side effects and do not affect the amount or quality of breast milk, making them safe to use while breastfeeding. IUDs also do not interact with any medicines and can even help prevent ectopic pregnancies.

IUDs does not interfere with sex. And because IUDs are effective, couples do not have to worry about pregnancy. The effects of IUDs are immediately reversible. After removing the IUD, a woman?s fertility will immediately come back, as if she never used any contraceptive method.

Unlike condoms, IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS. This is why women with recent STDs or who have multiple sex partners are advised to use other contraceptive methods.

Who should use an IUD?

An IUD is best for women who want long-term protection from pregnancy with very little to remember, is unable to take hormonal contraceptives, and is breastfeeding. Generally, women can use IUD even if they are smoking cigarettes, taking antibiotics or anticonvulsants, diabetic or hypertensive.

The World Health Organization medical eligibility criteria provide guidance on safety of contraceptive methods including IUDs. According to the medical eligibility criteria, there are no restrictions for using the IUD among women with hypertension, multiple cardiovascular risk factors, history of pulmonary embolism and stroke.

Consult your doctor

With its high efficacy rate, safety and minimal side effects, IUDs are an excellent contraceptive choice for women who are looking for an effective birth control method without the hassles that may be encountered using other methods.

To know more about IUDs, it is best to consult your healthcare provider.

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