When it comes to birth control, Canadian women have a number of options. While the birth control pill remains the number one choice, patches, rings, injections, and implants are also available. However, the most effective form of birth control (besides abstinence of course) is also one of the least popular: the IUD.
IUDs, or intrauterine devices, are small but mighty little birth control devices that are placed directly in the uterus. There are three major kinds available in Canada: copper, Jayness, and Mirena.
As a current host to my own Mirena, I wanted to share my own experience with it, why it and IUDs like it are not the birth control of choice for the majority of Canadian women, and why they should be.
First of all, the facts. The Mirena is a hormonal IUD, and releases small amounts of a progestin hormone called levonorgestrel directly into your uterus. It is reversible, requires no daily routine, and can last up to five years. It is 99 per cent effective – which is amazing considering that is generally what women are after when looking at their birth control options. It has some other perks as well, as 20 per cent of women will no longer get their periods, and the majority who do will have lighter and easier ones. It is also cost effective – about $400 up front which can be less than traditional oral contraceptives over time.
You may be thinking, “Wow, this is amazing.” And you would be right! Maybe you’ve heard about the Mirena, maybe you haven’t. Maybe you were like me, who was surprised when my doctor suggested it to me as an alternative to oral contraceptives, which were aggravating my migraines. I thought to myself, ‘gee, this sounds great, but aren’t they for moms?’ This commercial, one of my first experiences learning about the IUD, may have had something to do with it:
From there I did my own research and discovered that the trend continues. It even says it right on the website: “Mirena: Birth Control for Busy Moms” and “it is important to note that Mirena is recommended for women who have had a child.”
So why is that? And why did my doctor think it would work for me, having no children myself? From there I heard stories of dated and now debunked research of IUD users, showing rates of STIs to be higher in women without children than those with. To be safe, I wanted to do a little more digging. Here is what I found.
There are some risks associated with getting an IUD. However, the differences between the risks for women with and without children are minor, related more to other factors. In their article, “Barriers and Misperceptions Limiting Widespread Use of Intrauterine Contraception Among Canadian Women”, Brian Hauck, MD, and Dustin Costescu, MD, BSc, lay out several reasons why IUDs are not more popular among Canadian women (especially young and unmarried women). Though the reasons are varied, there is a definite trend around misperception, low public awareness, and product labeling.
They go on to explain that the risks associated with insertion for women who have not had at least one child, such as insertion failure, uterine perforation, and expulsion, are low. These risks typically stem from insertion too soon after giving birth, a uterus that doesn’t move easily, or an inexperienced person performing the insertion.
After my doctor told me about the Mirena, I made an appointment with my local women’s clinic to speak with someone who deals with these things every day. Knowing that I could have mine inserted by an expert, who also had all the right equipment to do so safely, really assured me that I was making the right decision. I decided to go ahead with it, and despite the honestly quite painful process, I am pleased with the decision I made and recommend this little device it to all my lady friends. To be fair, I have heard that for women who have had children, the insertion process is easier and therefore not as uncomfortable. As someone who nearly fainted getting hers in, I can attest to that. I also firmly believe that childbirth is probably so painful that anything else you experience afterward will seem easy in comparison. I’ll let you know once I’ve done both.
The marketing behind the Mirena clearly shows they still strongly believe in this myth that women who have not had children should not get an IUD. Despite overwhelming evidence, they stay true to their plan, potentially dissuading perfectly suitable candidates from purchasing their product. IUDs like the Mirena have risks and rewards, and may not be right for you. Talk to your doctor, do your own research, and make your own decision. Unfortunately, without a major shift in marketing towards women without children, a huge portion of the population could be missing out on this amazing device.
Image credit: Tumblr/plannedparenthood, Tumblr/great-gif