Problems With IUDs

What makes the intrauterine device (IUD) a convenient contraceptive? Aside from being highly effective when used properly, this device does not interrupt intercourse and has long-lasting contraceptive effects. "For the woman who can use an IUD, the advantages are great because she does not have to worry about contraception each day. The effectiveness rate is high, with only about a five percent chance of pregnancy," according to the editors of Consumer Guide's "Family Health & Medical Guide."

But things can go wrong for several reasons. If the IUD is not inserted correctly, pregnancy can occur. And the bad part is that IUD users who become pregnant are likely to miscarry. Pregnancy among IUD users also increases the chances of infection, premature delivery and stillbirth. To avoid this, the IUD comes with a small string which the wearer can use to make sure the device is in place. The string also helps the physician in removing the device. Some women can't tolerate the IUD and it may be expelled during menstruation. Although many women can feel this happening, others may not. This can create problems later.

"To reduce the already small risk of getting pregnant with an IUD, make sure that whoever inserts it has experience performing the procedure and check regularly to be sure the lUD's string 'tail' is dangling into the vaginal canal. Between 2 percent and 20 percent of lUDs are expelled in the first year, sometimes without any pain. Any time you can't locate the string or have prolonged cramping, heavy bleeding, pain or fever, you should consult your doctor immediately," warned Deborah Franklin in Health magazine.

There are other reasons why women can't use the IUD even if it is inserted properly. For one, the very act of insertion can be a painful experience. This is true for women who have never had children and wish to use this contraceptive method. This was revealed by Dr. Raphael Jewelewicz, associate clinical professor of psychiatry, in "The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Complete Home Medical Guide."

"Sometimes a doctor or family planning specialist will inject a painkiller into the cervix just before insertion. Pain may persist for 24 to 48 hours afterward and there may be a slight blood flow after insertion. The first period following insertion may be particularly heavy," he said.

"Severe menstrual cramps and increased menstrual bleeding may follow the insertion of an IUD. Sometimes these side effects lessen after a month or two. In other cases, severe cramps and prolonged bleeding continue and the physician may advise removal of the IUD," added the editors of Consumer Guide's "Family Health & Medical Guide."

The worst that can happen to IUD users are pelvic infect¬ions that can lead to sterility and ectopic pregnancy. The latter is a life-threatening condition where the fertilized egg implants itself in the Fallopian tube rather than the uterus. Because IUDs may make aggravate sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), women who have an active pelvic infection or a history of pelvic inflammatory disease should avoid this device and switch to other birth control methods instead. (Tomorrow: Natural family planning methods)

Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine

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