Before You Get an IUD, Here Are 5 Important Things You Need to Know

I have an IUD, and I'm never going back to anything else. Which is saying something, considering both times I had my IUD inserted, it was a pretty rough experience. Still, the benefits majorly outweigh the drawbacks for me, and many other women are finding the same to be true. I asked women's health nurse practioner Linda Dominquez a few important questions about why IUDs are on the rise, stats everyone who has one (or is thinking of getting one) should know, and general knowledge that women will find helpful when deciding whether to opt for this form of birth control.

"I think it is great that for just a few minutes for an IUD insertion, [it] can ensure many years of carefree, hands-free, memory-free, and very safe contraception," says Dominquez. "American women want to be healthy, successful, and to have their future, including their 'baby bump' future, well planned. Today's newest IUDs help them to achieve those goals. I have never had a woman ask me for a contraceptive method that 'sort of works.'" Here's what else she had to say.

1. There are some common myths and misconceptions about IUDs.

"The most common myth/misconception is that an IUD will cause infection that could prevent a woman from being able to get pregnant in the future. The truth is, the close partnership of 'germs and sperms' that ride together during unprotected sex is the main cause of infection and the scarring of the uterine tissue. It is very rare for an infection immediately following an IUD insertion. Sterile/aseptic precautions are taken by the health care provider (HCP) when the IUD is placed. Often STD testing is obtained prior to or on the day of insertion. A woman needs to be open and honest with her HCP about recent risk or possible exposure to STDs, so immediate or frequent testing can be done. Condoms and common sense help prevent STDs, and the IUD is greater than 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancies.

"Another [misconception] is that the IUD can puncture through the uterus. The truth is that perforation at the time of an IUD insertion or later on is extremely rare. The health care provider will take careful and gentle measurements of the position, size, and depth of the inner dimension of the uterus, so that the IUD is placed safely and correctly."

2. IUD users should be aware of important birth control statistics.

"Most women know that ovulation — the egg — is only available for a few hours. However, most women are unaware that that the sperm travels with over 100 million back up buddies per ejaculation; and they hang out for up to five days/120 hours! Having sexual intercourse a few days before ovulation can still be risky because the sperm are still active and present days later. The risk of unplanned pregnancy is evident in numbers: one egg vs. 100 million sperm, and 12-24 hours vs. 120 hours . . . there's the big risk!"

3. IUDs are becoming more and more common.

"American women are looking for the very best contraceptive protection — methods of birth control with high efficacy rates and methods that will be there for her when she needs it. IUDs are being used by a wider range of women than ever before. And equally important, more health care providers are being trained on the newest types of IUDs. This is in part because of a new IUD that launched in 2015, Liletta. Allergan launched Liletta in partnership with Medicines360, a nonprofit global pharmaceutical company that provides access to medicines for women regardless of their socioeconomic status, insurance status, or geographic location.

"The FDA approval of Liletta is supported by the largest hormonal IUD trial (ACCESS IUS), which was conducted in the US designed to reflect the US population. This multicenter, open-label clinical trial included 1,751 women aged 16-45 who received Liletta. In women 16 to 45, Liletta was found to be 99.45 percent effective in preventing pregnancy in women regardless of race, previous births, or body mass index. Liletta was found to be safe and effective in all groups. There was a rapid return to fertility when the Liletta was removed.

"Another reason the IUD is gaining popularity and use is that women are informing other women — their sisters, friends, and digital contacts — about the ease, safety, comfort, and convenience of having a highly effective contraceptive in the IUD. With my patients, I have seen that women [want] a method that is highly effective when they are using it and is rapidly reversible when they are really ready to try to get pregnant."

4. Certain factors can affect the pain of insertion.

"It can be anxiety-provoking for a woman when she doesn't know what is going on down there when the IUD is being placed. It is very helpful if the placement procedure has been explained beforehand by the health care provider. She needs to know that the IUD is small, soft, flexible, and that the placement of the IUD only takes a few minutes. There are great online videos/websites that are available, like the one for the newest IUD.

"On the day of the insertion, I ask my patients to dress comfortably, eat a light meal, and not to overbook their schedule that day. Consider this her 'contraceptive spa day' because she is doing something great for her health and her future.

"To sum it up, there are a few dos and don't's: don't be hungry, don't drink a high-caffeinated energy beverage that can make you edgy and nervous, and don't be in a rush. Do get good education and information, and just know that your healtch care provider will do everything to try to help you be comfortable . . . all these suggestions can make a big difference."

5. IUDs can actually make sex feel BETTER.

"Sex can be better than ever for the woman and her partner knowing that there is nearly no risk of an 'oops,' an unintended ejaculation, or an unintended pregnancy. Sex can be spontaneous without the fear of, 'Did I take my pill? Is the Patch still on? I forgot to go to the drug store to pick up my contraceptive ring! Where am I in my cycle? Oh no . . . my phone is dead and so is my fertility app!'"