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If you thought IUDs were just for moms, think again

Intrauterine devices are one of the most effect forms of birth control, but are relatively underutilized, at least in the United States.
Intrauterine devices are one of the most effect forms of birth control, but are relatively underutilized, at least in the United States.

Until recently, intrauterine devices – or IUDs - were marketed as the birth control for moms. This commercial for the hormonal IUD, Mirena, perfectly illustrates that.

At least one reason it was sold that way: There were concerns that the IUD could lead to infertility, if it was implanted wrong or caused pelvic inflammation.

But Dr. Eve Espey, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of New Mexico, says the IUDs on the market now are very safe and complications are rare. (Uterine puncture occurs in an estimated one out of 1,000 women, Espey says.)

They're slowly gaining traction and acceptance among young women, and women who haven’t had kids yet. (If you're among the women using an IUD, please share the cost of your device with our #PriceCheck project!)

Between 2007 and 2009, the percentage of women using long-acting reversible contraception – the IUD and the implant – more than doubled, from 3.7 percent to 8.5 percent, according to a 2012 NIH analysis, authored by experts at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank. During that same time period, young women ages 15-19 using the IUD or implant – tripled, from 1.5 percent to 4.5 percent.

Granted, that's a small percentage of contraception users. But Megan Kavanaugh of the Guttmacher Institute expects usage among all women – including adolescents – to continue trending upward. Among the reasons: There's more awareness and training for doctors regarding IUDs, and more access and awareness among patients, she says.

In guidelines issued in 2011, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said IUDs and implants are "the most effective forms of reversible contraception available and are safe for use by almost all reproductive-age women."

And in 2012, Congress issued guidelines that said IUDs and implants should be offered as first-line contraceptive options for sexually active adolescents:

"Although almost all sexually active adolescents have used contraception at some point, they frequently use methods with relatively high failure rates such as condoms and withdrawal, or they incorrectly use more reliable methods such as the birth control pill. The fact that 8 out of every 10 adolescent pregnancies are unintended underscores the need for dependable and effective contraceptive methods for teens."

I've spent time this week reading about younger women's experiences with the IUD. This User's Guide: Getting an IUD, from Jezebel, gives a firsthand perspective from a woman – childless, never married – who recently got an IUD. She says the insertion hurt - and she had fears about side effects - but she's happy with her decision. In the comments section, other women weigh in with their experiences - positive and negative - about the IUD and other birth control methods.

Are you a younger woman, or a woman who’s never had children, who's recently opted for an IUD? Tell us about your decision and experience in the comments section below, or e-mail us at