The IUD Vs. The World

By Kayla Webley Adler

The IUD is the most effective contraceptive the world has ever seen. So why aren’t more women using it? One nonprofit is trying to change that.

The science is irrefutable. The intrauterine device, or IUD, an inch-long, T-shaped piece of plastic inserted in the uterus, and the implant, a matchstick-size plastic rod placed in the upper arm, are the most effective forms of birth control on the planet. The devices, collectively known as long-acting reversible contraception, or LARCs, work more than 99 percent of the time, meaning fewer than 1 in 100 women using them will get pregnant each year—a failure rate so low, it rivals sterilization. (By comparison, 9 out of 100 women taking the pill, and 18 women out of 100 using condoms, get pregnant every year.)

But ask Google about the devices and a different picture emerges: “When IUDs Go Terribly Wrong,” “I Got an IUD. It Was a Nightmare,” “How Maryland Mother Escaped Death After IUD Birth Control Nearly Killed Her,” “Woman Goes Through Hell With Implanon Birth Control Implant.” Nearly every woman has heard a horror story. “I read somewhere that a woman had crippling cramps and couldn’t get out of bed for a year,” says Elizabeth, 27, a Ph.D. student at the Ohio State University who asked that we not use her last name. “I heard some women have ridiculously heavy bleeding, that you could go infertile—all sorts of really scary stuff.” She adds with a laugh, “I should not WebMD things!”

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