Inserting inanimate objects into one’s body ebbs and flows in popularity as a pastime (the London Fire Brigade’s Twitter feed indicates that the nation might be on a slight peak post-Fifty Shades of Grey). However, we aren’t talking about inserting objects for the purposes of pleasure, not directly anyway, but for a method of contraception.
Many of us will have heard of intrauterine devices (IUD), also known as the coil. Granted, it does not protect at all from STIs, but it’s one of the most effective and convenient forms of contraception currently available to women. Its reputation suffered horrendously during the 70s, when the first versions caused significant health problems for many women. However, in the past 20 years, they have come a long way and are increasingly seen as a safer alternative to the pill, since IUDs remove the chance of human error as it only has to be inserted once.
There are a large number of advantages to the ‘T’-shaped device. The NHS and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend it. According to the former’s website, it’s more than 99 per cent effective, second in that respect only to the implant (the pill has a 6 per cent failure rate). It is inserted by a doctor in a short and (for most women) slightly uncomfortable procedure. The copper IUD slowly releases copper ions into the uterus making it inhospitable to sperm.
The similarly-shaped IUS (intrauterine system) releases the hormone progestogen which thickens the cervical mucus and makes it difficult for the sperm to reach an egg. However, the IUS may have the effect of reducing the intensity of, or even stopping a woman’s periods. Also, the IUS only releases hormones locally, thus they have less of an overall effect than those of the implant or the pill.
The chances of major medical issues with IUDs are extremely rare, as the probabilities of perforations of the uterine wall and expulsions of the IUD are 0.1 per cent and 3-5 per cent respectively. All these facts make one question as to why IUDs are still such an unpopular method. It may be due to the fact that describing an IUD involves the phrases, “metal rod” and, “into the vagina” in the same sentence – which can cause adverse reactions even in empathetic men, let alone in the women who it’s being advertised to.
All in all, as patronising as this may sound coming from a man (perhaps I might not deserve to have a say on this), but it seems that the IUD has an undeservedly bad reputation.