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Why Family Planning Matters When Choosing an IUD

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Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are more popular than ever—earlier this year, the National Center for Health Statistics announced a fivefold increase in the number of women opting for a long-acting contraceptive (LARC). And we get why—in addition to pregnancy prevention, you’re also likely to score lighter periods and an IUD requires zero work on your part after insertion. But that zero work comes at another compromise: You’re locking yourself in to delaying motherhood for longer than with a daily pill since the lifespan of your device, depending on the model, can be up to 10 years! (Is an IUD the Best Birth Control Option for You?)

Turns out, though, most of us don’t really think twice about how if we’re going to want kids in three years, we might want to opt for protection that's less of a commitment. In fact, a new survey from researchers at Penn State College of Medicine found that women are more likely to make their birth control decisions based on their current relationship status and sexual activity more than their long-term pregnancy plans. So, we seem to be opting for LARCs simply when we’re getting busy on a regular basis. In the study, those who were having sex two or more times per week were almost nine times more likely to opt for a LARC than a non-prescription contraception (like a condom). Ladies in a relationship (who are potentially having sex on a regular basis as well, although the study didn't specify) were more than five times more likely to turn to the trusted protection.

“I suspect that women who are having sex more often perceive (correctly) that they are at higher risk of getting pregnant, and thus recognize that they need more effective methods in order to avoid pregnancy,” says lead author Cynthia H. Chuang, M.D. (Smart, considering Your Likelihood of Getting Pregnant Is Higher with a New Boyfriend.)

The takeaway: If you are 100 percent sure you don't want kids for the next three, five, or 10 years, then the convenience and reliability of an IUD may be perfect for you, said Christine Greves, M.D., a gynecologist at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. And it's not necessarily a full commitment: "Women can—and do—get IUDs removed early," says Chuang, pointing mainly to if they experience side effects or if they simply decide they don't want it after three months. But LARCs are more labor intensive (and sometimes painful) to insert than just popping a pill every morning and are theoretically intended to stay in for their full lifespan, which means the decision to get one is intended to take you off the baby making track for at least a few years (although it's not an irreversible decision). How do you know which one is right for you? Start with these 3 Birth Control Questions You Must Ask Your Doctor.

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