IUD Birth Control Safety A Concern Among Doctors

A new survey suggests that about half of all doctors still have concerns about the safety of intrauterine birth control devices (IUDs).

Researchers surveyed health care providers at family planning clinics in Colorado and Iowa, finding that only about half of the providers said they considered Paragard and Mirena, types of intrauterine devices (IUDs), safe and reliable for preventing pregnancy in women who had just had babies.

Mirena IUD is one of the most commonly used IUD birth control devices, which is implanted in the uterus for up to five years. Placement is designed to prevent pregnancy by keeping the sperm from the egg, and the device also releases levonorgestrel, a progestin designed to keep a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs for fertilization.

Although it is supposed to be easily removable and is promoted as a way to free woman from worrying about birth control, a growing number of women throughout the United States are pursuing a Mirena lawsuit against Bayer Healthcare after experiencing painful and debilitating problems when their IUD perforated the uterus, migrated to other parts of the body or caused other complications.

For patients, the message is: know the facts about IUDs, Brindis said. Women should discuss their level of comfort with inserting IUDs with their doctors, and those women who want this kind of birth control should find a doctor who is willing to perform the procedure.

For many women, IUDs may be more effective at preventing pregnancy than are birth control pills. A study published in May in the New England Journal of Medicine found that women who used birth control pills, skin patches or vaginal rings were 20 times more likely to get pregnant over a three-year period than women who used IUDs or implants.

In the new study, Brindis and colleagues analyzed information from 273 doctors, doctor’s assistants, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and registered nurses. Participants filled out surveys in 2010 and 2012. During that period, family planning agencies had pushed to increase education about IUDs among health care providers in Iowa and Colorado, where they survey occurred.

That education has helped somewhat — the percentage of doctors who said IUDs were safe and reliable for postpartum women increased from 37 percent to 50 percent over the two-year period. But there is still a lot of room for improvement, Brindis said.

“We still have a long way to go to have a wide acceptance,” Brindis said. IUDs are often considered a “last resort” for birth control, but there is no need to view them this way, she said.

The devices do carry risks, however; women who currently have pelvic infections or get them frequently should not use the devices. ParaGard, which is a copper, hormone-free device, has been associated with heavy bleeding, severe cramping and vaginal inflammation. Mirena, which releases small amounts of a synthetic progestin hormone, may be associated with hormonal side effects, such as acne, weight gain or mood changes. Neither device protects against sexually transmitted infections.

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