Women's health advocates tend to be big fans of the intrauterine device, otherwise known as the IUD. And there are plenty of reasons why.
The small, T-shaped contraption is inserted into the uterus by a trained health care provider to prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm from joining an egg. IUDs are extremely effective (every year, less than 1 out of 100 women get pregnant while using an IUD), and are also "some of the least expensive, longest lasting forms of birth control available to women today," according to Planned Parenthood. (IUDs don't, however, protect against sexually transmitted infections.) The insertion procedure, which is done by a health-care provider, generally takes only a few minutes.
But while studies suggest that a growing number of women are using IUDs, the birth control pill is still far and away the most commonly used method among women who practice contraception.
That's largely because of the shadow left by the dangerous Dalkon Shield IUD, yanked from the market in the 1970s after floods of complaints about infection, infertility and even death. "The fact is, people still have big misconceptions," said Dr. Amy Bryant, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina. "I'm really surprised that more women don't know about how safe IUDs are."
With that in mind, here are eight things all women should know about IUDs. As always, talk to your doctor or health care professional to discuss the contraceptive choice right for you.