When it comes to birth control methods, IUDs (intrauterine devices) are having a moment. From 2006 to 2010, IUD use has increased 83 percent among women between ages 15 to 44. Based on this meteroic rise in popularity, you’d think that American women know all about the perks of IUD, including its high effectiveness, safety, and ability to be reversed.
But it turns out, not a lot of U.S. women have realistic ideas about the best contraceptive method. According to a recent survey by the Urban Institute, only 55 percent of women had heard “a lot” about the IUD, while 9 percent hadn’t heard about it at all. (In contrast, 90 percent of women said they knew “a lot” about condoms, and 86 percent about the pill.)
Even more telling is how effective women believed various birth control methods to be. Sterilization (male or female) was viewed as most effective, with IUDs, shots, and pills fairly behind. While 64 percent considered condoms “somewhat effective,” only 31 percent thought the same about IUDs.
Compare this to the actual stats on effectiveness: Over one year of “typical use” of condoms, 18 percent of women will become pregnant; on the pill, that drops to 9 percent. And don’t even get us started with withdrawal (or pull-out) method, which has a measly 73 percent effectiveness rate. But with an IUD? Only 0.2 to 0.8 percent of women have the same chance of becoming pregnant. (*Sigh of relief.*)
This goes to show that most American women’s assumptions about the most effective birth control are basically the opposite of the facts—not good. Bear in mind that the pill’s efficacy issues are usually attributed to women failing to take it as directed. (Let’s be real: It’s hard to take a pill every single day at the exact same time without fail.)
Health safety of various birth control options can be harder to gauge, but the FDA has approved all prescription methods as safe for women. (Although there was a scare about recalling IUDs in the 1970s, the researchers note that there haven’t been any big issues since, and they’ve been called OB/GYN’s contraceptive method of choice.)
The bottom line: Do your research and talk to your doctor before choosing the BC method that’s right for you. And checking the actual stats on effectiveness and safety is always a better bet than trusting your friend who waxes poetic about withdrawal.