An intrauterine device, or an IUD, is a small contraceptive that is inserted into the uterus and can last for several years. There are both hormonal and non-hormonal versions. For gynecologists like Dr. Sadia Haider, the IUD is the top recommendation for female patients.
That's because it's one of the most effective methods of birth control. But doctors recommending it so widely is relatively recent shift — for the U.S., at least.
"You go to medical school and then you go to a residency to become a specialized physician. And in OBGYN residency, all residents are graduating with experience in IUD insertion, which wasn't the case, say, 10 years ago. Other specialties like family medicine and even pediatrics are starting to train their doctors," Haider said. "The IUD just offers another option for women that will allow them more autonomy as far as their decision-making around, you know, not wanting to have a period not wanting to have to use a pill every single day and wanting ... a long-term method that will be very highly effective and reliable."
The increase in IUD recommendations has to do with an improved design. Haider says the insertion is a quick office procedure. But getting patients to choose the device means health care providers have had to confront some misconceptions.
Haider said: "Historically, there was an IUD in the '70s called the Dalkon shield, and that one was associated with infections. So it was taken off the market. And it was the newer devices we have are made very differently. So they're made with a different, completely different technology and are much safer. But unfortunately, some of the myths that was around that original IUD stayed along with these newer IUDs. ... But really, there's really good evidence now that that those that that's truly a myth, and that IUDs are really safe for all age groups of women, including young women who want to have children in the future."
The popularity of IUDs among patients was partially kickstarted by the Affordable Care Act, which offered widespread coverage. And there was another popularity bump when President Donald Trump took office and attempted to dismantle the ACA.
Without the coverage, an IUD is one of the most costly contraceptives up front.
"We definitely are having more requests for IUDs for contraception, but also a lot of women are coming in because of the non-contraceptive benefits as well. So there are a lot of women coming in getting IUDs for heavy periods, other indications that, you know, that are beneficial for women," Haider said.