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5 January 2007
IUD The Forgotten Contraceptive

Intrauterine devices (IUD) are largely unknown to younger women, say researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center. A new study by Rochester doctors, appearing in Obstetrics & Gynecology, revealed that most young women who sought birth control after a first pregnancy were unaware of the safety and effectiveness of modern IUDs.

An IUD is a small device which when inserted into the uterus provides long-term birth control by preventing egg fertilization. "Modern IUDs are safe, effective, and reversible, but only about 2 percent of U.S. women use them," said Rochester doctor, Nancy L. Stanwood. Suspecting the low use of IUDs was related to awareness, Stanwood's study aimed to estimate knowledge of IUDs among young pregnant women.

In the study, women aged between 14 and 25 were asked about their contraceptive history, plans, and knowledge. They were also asked if they had heard of IUDs, and if they knew anything about them. Only half of the women said they had heard of IUDs, and more than 70 percent were unaware of their safety and effectiveness in preventing pregnancy.

Though not widely used in the U.S., today's IUDs have been proven to be highly effective in preventing pregnancy with few side effects. Modern IUDs have failure rates similar to tubal ligation, but are not permanent and do not require surgery. "Young women choosing contraception after a pregnancy would benefit from counseling about the relative safety and effectiveness of IUDs, allowing them to make fully informed contraceptive decisions," Stanwood concluded.

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