IUDs Safe For Teens, Study Says
Some doctors are still reluctant to prescribe intrauterine devices, but they are perfectly safe for teens, according to one of the largest studies to date that looks at IUD safety among adolescents and older women.
"Today's IUDs are not the same as the ones that existed decades ago and are undeserving of the outdated stigma they carry," lead researcher Dr. Abbey Berenson, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said in a press release.
In a study published Monday in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Berenson and her colleagues examined
Serious complications occurred in less than 1 percent of the women in the study, regardless of age or the type of IUD they had been prescribed. Additionally, early discontinuation rates for teenage girls and women 25-44 years old were not significantly different.
"One of the hesitations in providing IUDs as the first-line option to adolescents has been this feeling of, 'They won't like it, they'll take it out,'" Dr. Casey Petra, an
Overall, the researchers concluded that hormonal IUDs were tied to fewer complications and lower rates of discontinuation than copper IUDs among women of all ages.
Teenagers were slightly more likely than 25 to 44-year-olds to experience dysmenorrhea, or pain associated with menstruation, as well as amenorrhea, or the absence of periods. But neither is a significant issue that places the patient at risk of serious harm, the study's authors wrote.
Among teens using contraceptives, the birth control pill is still the most popular option: More than half of the nearly 3 million teenage women who use contraception take the pill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, in the last decade, the proportion of female contraceptive users opting for long-acting reversible methods has nearly quadrupled, jumping from 2.4 percent in 2002 to 8.5 percent in 2009. And approximately 4.5 percent of teens who use a form of birth control use a long-acting method. (Long-acting reversible methods include both the IUD and the birth control implant, a small rod implanted in a woman's upper arm that provides a continuous dose of hormones.)
In 2012, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a committee opinion saying that adolescents exploring
Despite a growing body of scientific support, concerns about IUD safety persist. Fears date back to the 1970s, when hundreds of thousands of women in the U.S. testified about serious harms caused by the Dalkon Shield -- an IUD that caused infection and even death, but has long since been removed from the market.
"I think that myth is still out there, that IUDs are going to cause infection and future infertility," Casey said, "but the perception is changing."
"This [new study] adds to our evidence that IUDs are safe and effective, as well as acceptable to women of all ages, including adolescents," she said.