The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has issued a new set of guidelines stating that intrauterine devices (IUDs) and contraceptive implants should be offered as an option for birth control for all healthy adult women and teenagers in the July issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. ACOG did not endorse these methods of contraception in its previous guidelines due to concerns the devices may increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women with more than one sexual partner. However, experts now believe that the risk is minimal.

IUDs and contraceptive implants are both forms of reversible birth control. IUDs are plastic, T-shaped instruments inserted into the uterus that release either the hormone progestin or copper to prevent pregnancy. IUDs have a failure rate of less than 1 percent. The IUD is effective for preventing pregnancy for 10 years.

Contraceptive skin implants are matchstick- sized devices inserted underneath the skin of the arm that release progestin for up to 3 years. Contraceptive implants were approved for use in 2006 and have the lowest pregnancy rate of all forms of contraception, with only 1 out of 1,000 women becoming pregnant while using the hormonal IUD during the first year.

Dr. Adam Jacobs, medical director of the family planning division at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, stated that IUDs are the “most cost effective form” of birth control available to date. Although IUDs and implants have much lower failure rates compared to other forms of birth control, currently, only 5.5% of women choose IUDs or hormonal implants as their primary form of birth control. Many attribute this low percent to lack of awareness, cost, and availability.

Media Resources: USA Today 6/22, Reuters 6/22, Los Angeles Times 6/22, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Patient Education Pamphlet 6/11

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