It’s time to clear up some common IUD myths

IUD mythsCC: Andrew Neel at Unsplash

As one of the most effective forms of birth control, the IUD is a revolutionary invention. Depending on the one you choose, your chances of falling pregnant drop to 1 in 2000. Additionally, periods become lighter. In some studies, the menopause proves more manageable. Despite the benefits of this long-acting contraceptive, IUD myths are rife. If you’re on the fence about using one, it’s helpful to clear them up.

The commonest IUD myths: increased infection rates

When IUDs were first introduced, users expressed concerns about infections. As a result, one of the commonest IUD myths is that they’re a fast-track to pelvic inflammatory disease.

Fortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a study that rubbished such claims. Another study has concluded that IUD infection rates are location-specific. In areas where practitioners don’t screen for STDs in advance of insertion, PID is more likely to occur.

The takehome message from that study is this: use a reputable practitioner who offers STD screening first.

Only older women and those who have had children can have an IUD

As one of the more frustrating IUD myths that revolve around infertility, this one could prevent women from accessing a reliable contraceptive.  Although women who haven’t had children have a smaller uterus, this doesn’t act as a barrier to using one. An IUD won’t negatively affect the uterus’s size.

It’s worth noting that any potential IUD risks are far outweighed by their benefits. For example, the failure rate is very low. Why? Because it doesn’t rely on ongoing human input. Unlike, for example, birth control pills. As a result, unwanted pregnancies are less common.

IUDs increase a woman’s risk of ectopic pregnancy

This is one of the few IUD myths that arises from confusion. If you fall pregnant while using an IUD, it’s more likely to be ectopic than when using other birth control methods. However, that doesn’t mean ectopic pregnancies are commoner when relying on one.

One meta-analysis demonstrates that IUDs don’t increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. The analysis focused on women who had fallen pregnant in the past, and those who hadn’t. In both groups, the risk of ectopic pregnancy wasn’t higher than when using another form of birth control, or no birth control at all.

IUD insertion is incredibly painful

Like some IUD myths, this is one that continues to thrive via word of mouth. Although IUD insertion is uncomfortable, it’s not unduly painful. In the 1980s, one study revealed that the pain women expected was far worse than the pain they encountered during IUD insertion. In other words, listening to your friends will cause unnecessary anxiety with this myth.

For those who prefer more recent studies, one from 2013 reveals that anxiety contributes towards IUD pain. Clinicians have noted that most pain responses arise when cervical tensioning occurs. Interestingly, using prophylactic pain control doesn’t reduce uncomfortable sensations. But, turning to an NSAID such as Ibuprofen afterward does make the brief recovery period easier.

As a birth control method that lasts between five and 10 years, IUDs convey a lot of benefits. If you’re concerned about any myths, it’s always worth discussing them with a clinician.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.