When we think of an emergency contraceptive (for use shortly after un-protected intercourse), the first thought that comes to mind probably is the “morning-after pill”. But a new study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, showed that it is the intrauterine device (IUD), and not the morning-after pill, which is the most effective method for preventing pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse.
The study, a joint venture by various global universities, was a systematic review of data from 42 studies conducted in six different countries (China, Egypt, Italy, Netherlands, USA and UK) between 1979 and 2011. In more than 7000 emergency situations in which the IUD was used, only 10 pregnancies occurred.
The review showed that the IUD achieved effectiveness higher than 99.9% when used within 5 days following unprotected intercourse. The morning-after pill, which contains high doses of hormones and must be taken within 72 hours after intercourse, had a failure rate of 1-2%. The study also showed that the morning-after pill is of lower effedtiveness in preventing pregnancy in women with an elevated Body Mass Index (BMI); that is, overweight or obese. But the IUD functioned effectively, regardless of BMI.
Of the countries analyzed, China had the highest percentage use of an IUD as emergency contraception (43%), while in other countries the use was typically about 13%. Nevertheless, according to the data, the IUD is not the emergency contraceptive of choice for physicians in the U.S., where 85% of doctors have never prescribed the IUD for this purpose, and 93% of the doctors only insert the device after at least two office visits.
Dr. James Trussell, lead author and researcher at Princeton University, hopes that this study will encourage physicians to talk to patients about the effectiveness of the IUD for emergency contraception, and to modernize their current practices, and make IUD insertion available on the first office visit if desired.
The authors estimate is that 36% of pregnancies worldwide are “unintentional”.
It should be noted also that the research only measured the efficiency of emergency contraception methods, and that the male or female condom remain the only methods that protect against HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases such as Hepatitis B and HPV, as well as providing protection against pregnancy (though not as effectively as an IUD).
Learn more about the IUD
The IUD is a small T-shaped device, made of plastic and copper, which is placed inside the uterus by a doctor or gynecologist. It may be left in the uterus up to five to ten years, depending on the model. Although an effective method, the IUD is not necessarily the best option for all women.
The choice of contraceptive method most appropriate for each woman should be done in consultation with your doctor. If you want to find a gynecologist, visit our main website (www.procuramed.com). It’s fast, easy and free.
Finally, remember that visits to a womans’ health specialist or gynecologist are needed to help assure many aspects of a woman’s health!
ProcuraMed wishes everyone a great, healthy weekend!
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Photo: Ottfried Schreiter
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