A federally-funded study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that intrauterine devices (IUDs) do not increase the risk for infertility among women who have never been pregnant. As previous studies did not test for chlamydia, a major case of infertility, these studies may have falsely attributed IUDs as a primary cause of infertility. The copper IUD is a T-shaped plastic piece wrapped in copper wire that slowly releases copper into the uterus, preventing pregnancy by irritating the lining and altering fluids in the uterus and fallopian tubes. Newer versions release contraceptive hormones.
Though very effective and popular contraceptive method worldwide, only 1% of American women use IUD’s. The devices have been rarely used in the United States, largely because of a 1970’s scare over IUD’s produced by Dalkon Shield, a brand of IUD that was pulled from the market in 1974 and not included in this latest study. IUDs are 99% effective and can last up to ten years. They do not, however, protect against sexually transmitted diseases.