IUDs and implants most effective birth control method

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Recent data published in the journal Fertility and Sterility indicate that an increasing number of American women are turning to intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants as their preferred method of birth control.

This is good news, given that IUDs and implants are the most effective form of reversible birth control: Failure rates range from just 0.05 percent with an implant to between 0.2 and 0.8 percent with an IUD. And while only 8.5 percent of U.S. women were using these methods in 2009, this number was an increase from 2007, when less than 4 percent of American women were using IUDs or implants. In other countries, such as France, Norway and China, the rates of IUD and implant use are much higher, reaching up to 41 percent.

Lead researcher Dr. Lawrence B. Finer of the Guttmacher Institute in New York believes that the latest rise in IUD and implant use may be due to recent endorsements by medical societies, as well as advertisements that have increased awareness of these products and their safety.

IUDs are implanted in the uterus and prevent pregnancy by releasing small amounts of either progestin (Mirena), or copper (ParaGard). Although they range in cost from about $500 to $800, IUDs are effective for a long time, with Mirena preventing pregnancy for five years and ParaGard for ten.

The implant, which is effective for about three years, is inserted under the skin of the arm and works by releasing controlled amounts of progestin. Similar to the IUDs, the implant costs between $400 and $800.

While condoms and oral contraceptives are more commonly used methods of birth control in the U.S., they are not nearly as effective because many people don t use them properly. The unintended pregnancy rate is between 18 and 21 percent per year among those who use condoms alone, while using the pill and condoms together still results in a failure rate of 9 percent. And though these methods may seem less expensive, when the length of IUD and implant efficacy is taken into account, the prices are comparable and even favor the less commonly used methods.

There is no one best birth control method for everyone, but the efficacy of IUDs and implants cannot be ignored, says Dr. Ross. Cost is only a minor impediment here, as birth control pills can range from $120 to $600 each year. The main thing we can hope for is that more women begin to use more effective birth control methods."