When you think of birth control, you probably think of the pill, right? But it's not the only option—and it may not even be the best one. New guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have positioned the intra-uterine device (IUD) and implants front and center in the birth-control debate.
Yesterday the ACOG replaced their 2007 guidelines with new ones that suggest that IUDs and implants should be viewed as "first-line recommendations" for all women seeking to prevent pregnancy, Today reports. In the past, guidelines instructed doctors to view the IUD and implants as good options, but not stress them as preferential for younger women and teens.
Implants and IUDs have been proven to be more effective at preventing pregnancy than other forms of birth control, but the pill remains the most popular option. Of the 62 percent of women who use contraceptives, 17 percent choose the pill, almost 17 percent use sterilization, and about 10 percent use condoms, according to a National Center for Health Statistics study conducted in 2006. However, both the pills and condoms require perfect compliance in order to be effective, and that doesn't always happen—for example, women may forget to take the pill every day, or the condom might break once in a while.
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With the IUD, patients don't have to worry about that: IUDs, which are small, T-shaped pieces of plastic or copper, are inserted into the uterus and can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years, while implants are inserted under the skin of the upper arm and can prevent pregnancy for three years. Both options are a bit more invasive than simply swallowing a pill—they require a doctor to insert or remove them—but they're almost foolproof.
“There is a great deal of emerging data that these should be the top tier, the first line,” Tina Raine-Bennett, M.D., M.P.H., research director for the Women’s Health Research Institute at Kaiser Permanente Northern California and the chair of the ACOG committee, told Today. “We’re saying to doctors, ‘Here is compelling evidence that should guide your practice.’”
Dr. Raine-Bennett also told Today that she thinks lingering fears over older models of IUDS may scare people from choosing them as birth control. In the 1970s, an IUD called the Dalkon Shield was sold, but it was later pulled from the market after many claimed it caused pelvic inflammatory disease. Newer models have been found to be safe.
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The implant's been updated as well. The older model of implants included six pins that didn't always stay in place, so newer kinds use just one thin rod.
"The ones on the market today are extremely safe," Mary Fournier, M.D., an adolescent-medicine specialist at Chicago's Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, told Huffington Post. "That is what everybody should be telling their patients."
It's important to note that like other forms of birth control, neither the IUD nor implant protect against STDs or STIs, so if you're at all worried about contracting one or you're unfamiliar with your sexual partner's history, you should also use condoms.
What do you think? Do you have an IUD or implant? Do you prefer the pill or some other form of birth control? Let's discuss!