birth control pills

The pill may be a tried and true method for keeping those pesky pregnancies at bay (knock on wood!), but apparently it's actually one of the more mediocre birth control methods on the market. According to new research, long-term options such as intrauterine devices, IUDs, and Depo-Provera shots are actually far more effective than their more popular daily-doses-necessary cousin. They also beat out the transdermal patch and the Nuva Ring.

In a recent study of 7,486 women using a variety of contraception options, long-acting contraceptives had a failure rate of less than one percent, while the failure rate for the pill, as well as patches and rings, hovered around nine percent. "When women say to me that they want to use the pill, I say 'That's fine, but it's 20 times less effective than an IUD,'" said one of the study's co-authors. "Clinicians have been reluctant to prescribe IUDs, but if we want to get a handle on unintended pregnancy in our country, we have to first offer the most effective methods." 

Could this be the beginning of a renaissance for the often-ignored IUD? Should the women of America toss our leftover pills in the air like so much confetti? I smell a new medical and/or sexual revolution in the works.

Commentarium (24 Comments)

Jun 05 12 - 6:09pm

I personally did a lot of research on the IUD, and after finding that it increases period length, cramping, and heavy bleeding, I decided against it. Who wants longer, more painful periods?!

Jun 05 12 - 8:46pm

Understandable, but check out the Mirena, which has the opposite effect in a lot of women.

Jun 06 12 - 10:10pm

Second on the Mirena. It's not without risks of course but I barely bleed or get cramps anymore. I haven't actually bought tampons or anything in 2 years!

Jun 17 12 - 5:28pm

I echo what K-Star said. Mirena has been awesome. I get a light "period" every 2-3 months and am virtually cramp-free. I used to have such heavy periods & bad cramps I needed prescription painkillers and iron supplements.

Jun 05 12 - 6:25pm

Well of course they are - I had a hard time rembering my pill every day but my hormon IUD just does its job for years at a time.
Plus I have basically no period at all anymore! Yes some women have problems on the hormonal IUD but I don't and I know friends that had issues with their pill too.
As far as I know the longer heavy periods are only for the non- hormone IUD.

Jun 05 12 - 7:09pm

I had a lot of miserable experiences with the pill, and when I got the (non-hormonal) IUD, my periods got lighter and my previously unbearable cramps eased up considerably.

Jun 05 12 - 7:54pm


Jun 05 12 - 8:54pm

No birth control method available today sounds as rockin' as the new shot men can get...100% effective, lasts 10 years...that's where the focus and the money should go. Big pharm and the politicans aren't really interested in helping women be comfortable and healthy and in control of their own reproduction.

Jun 05 12 - 9:39pm

My gyno told me they are difficult to insert if you haven't had a baby

Jun 07 12 - 10:16am

A lot of gynos say that. Mine told me a lot of them flat out refuse to insert one in a woman who hasn't had children because they say it's too difficult, but he does it for lots of patients who haven't had a baby. The problem is the gyno, not the IUD. If you really want one, just find a gyno who has experience inserting them in women who haven't given birth.

Jun 17 12 - 4:24am

I agree, it definitely depends on the doctor at my local clinic they had doctors who had been trained specifically in inserting IUDs pregnant or not. So like 2L said the problem is the gyn not the IUD

Jun 05 12 - 10:16pm

We are an uber-fertile couple who got one after the baby came along and we've been screwing like rabbits for over a year now. Yes there are drawbacks, but there's also no baby until we want it out. Not for everyone, but it's amazingly overlooked. We only learned because our friend is a sex educator.

Jun 05 12 - 11:37pm

Say no to DepProvera

Jun 06 12 - 12:40am

I have a copper IUD and I've never had a baby. I had to ask three different doctors until one accepted to insert one, but now I've had it for over a year with no issues. The insertion hurt a bit but it was no big deal. My periods are longer and heavier, but I can deal with that too. I recommend it. I don't like the idea of taking artificial hormones.

Jun 06 12 - 1:30am

Yeah, I'm not sure what the deal is with some doctors not offering IUDs (whether copper or hormonal) to their patients, especially for younger ones. Obviously everyone is different and there's no one-size-fits-all best method, but I think it's definitely a good option for a lot of people, especially those who have trouble with hormones or remembering to take a pill every day, and/or want something long-term that doesn't require shelling out every month at the pharmacy.

After some consideration and two accidental pregnancies while using other methods (apparently I'm freakishly fertile), I decided to try a copper IUD because of its high effectiveness, lack of hormones, low maintenance, long-term effectiveness, and not wanting to institute another monthly expense for my uninsured self. I've had it for a few months and am relatively happy with it. The first month I had some of the worst cramps ever, but after that it was back to my average level of crampiness. Aside from my periods lasting longer which is kind of annoying, I'm pretty happy with it.

As I said, everyone is different, but my two cents is that it's at least worth some investigation for anyone who wants long-term, relatively low-cost and low-side effect birth control, and/or has issues with hormonal forms of birth control.

Jun 06 12 - 4:01am

I used to forget the pill way too often, the NuvaRing was too expensive, and hormones made me the opposite of horny, so I decided to get a copper IUD. The insertion wasn't painful, but my uterus spent an entire day doing sommersaults inside me - EXTREMELY PAINFUL - it made me puke and poop all that my innards contained. I suspect the doc could have gotten me the smallest IUD model rather than the 2d smallest, as I've never had kids, and that it might have made a huge difference. After two weeks of mild pain, I now don't feel it anymore.
Pretty good, but I'm looking forward to male methods, because the horrible pain made me question dating a guy for a while (I'm bi), and because contraception is a heterosexual couple affair, not just a girl's.

Jun 06 12 - 7:47am

are a fantastic long-term solution for birth control. i've had mine for almonst 5 years (which means it's coming out next april), haven't bled since a month after the insertion, and have had no adverse side effects.

THAT SAID, the insertion was likely THE MOST PAINFUL experience i have ever had, even though it lasted perhaps as little as 20 seconds. i was screaming like a banshee (and i don't do that, generally, out of pain), and when it was done, i didn't know whether i was going to faint or puke. i did neither, was a bit sore for the rest of the day, and that was that.

i am still torn about whether to go through this again. much as i liked not bleeding anymore or having to take hormones every day.... knowing about how much it's gonna hurt is quite the detractor.

guess it's time for the man to get snipped :-)

Jun 06 12 - 9:25am

Mirena is great! Cramping is bad but nothing a little Ibuprofen can't help and after a year period is almost gone. 5 years of no worry of any unplanned pregnancies is awesome!

Jun 06 12 - 9:49am

I think that MD's have a longer memory about issues with IUDs.
They surely remember the Dalkon Shield lawsuits.

Jun 06 12 - 8:03pm

Scary stuff!

Jun 08 12 - 1:53am

I think MDs also remember what was wrong with the Dalkon Shield and understand why the IUDs in current use are safe, where those were not. That's why most docs are a fan of the copper IUD and Mirena.

Jun 08 12 - 1:56am

I opted not to get an IUD mainly because I was not in a long term monogamous relationship, and because I was concerned about the pain of insertion and that string thing. I got Implanon instead. I love it, have had no side effects other than some itching at the implant site. The doc actually had a couple of medical assistants watch him insert it, because they had never seen it done before. Apparently, it hasn't really caught on and most of his patients go with an IUD. I am very happy with it. I don't have to worry about taking a pill for the next three years, and I don't have all the crazy side effects of Depo Provera or the pill.

Jun 11 12 - 5:59am

I just got a Mirena, after 15 years on Depo which made my doctors uneasy about the bone loss even though I tested fine. It did hurt like a bitch to insert and one day of cramps. OK, I'm good to go for 5-7 years. I never had a baby before. My cervix wasn't opening and I started doing deep breathing, and it opened! Weird! And totally gross and painful but seriously, I just saved myself 28 doctor's appointments. Yay! Make sure you use condoms if you slut around with an IUD because an infection can get up in your uterus and mess you up. FYI. Of course, everyone has safer sex all the time.

Jun 11 12 - 10:12am

Statistics may say this but I personally know two women who got pregnant with the IUD in. It didn't fall out, it didn't get misplaced, it was where it was supposed to be and they got pregnant. At least with the pills I fell the control is mine.