Birth control that’s 20 times more effective than the Pill

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Pill is imperfect in preventing pregnancy because humans are imperfect.

"I had actually had a birth control scare. I had forgotten to take my pill a couple of days and I never wanted to experience that again," said Elise Higgins.

She hasn't had a scare in five years since switching to birth control that's 20 times more effective over the long term. Higgins, who now works for Planned Parenthood, has converted friends, too.

"They could sorta set it and forget it, and now I think a lot of my peers actually use one," said Higgins.

"You can forget to take your pill. You can't forget to use the IUD. It's in there," said Dr. Cori Cooper of Shawnee Mission Health.

She said the IUD or intrauterine device prevents pregnancy for up to three to 10 years depending upon the type. It's more than 99 percent effective. The most popular type of IUD works by thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the uterus.

"And it also slows down the transport time of the egg into the uterus so the egg and the sperm even if they get in there aren't at the right time and the right place," said Marcia Schlotman with Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center.

Schlotman, a nurse practitioner for more than 40 years, said this is not your mother's or grandmother's IUD. The Dalcon Shield was linked to serious infections, infertility and even deaths. Schlotman said the string transported germs into the uterus. The new IUDs?

"It's a totally different design, a totally different string attachment," she said.

She said there's still some risk of infection or perforation, but it's low. There can also be some pain with insertion that one study found averages four on a scale of one to 10.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently said health care professionals should encourage patients to consider long-acting reversible birth control, either the IUD or implants that are inserted just under the skin. The American Academy of Pediatrics said either of those methods should be the first-line contraceptive choice for teens who are sexually active.

"IUD is really something they are not familiar with, and you really have to kind of talk," said Dr. Cooper.

She said it's good for those who want to wait to have children and for women like Meg Guthrie who had three children in four years.

"It's been wonderful for me. It surprises me how few women actually do use an IUD," said Guthrie.

About 10 percent use one now, but it's increasing. Guthrie said there's a bonus.

"Seven years period free."

Her type of IUD causes periods to diminish or disappear.

The upfront cost had kept some women from using the IUD, but the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to fully cover birth control. Uninsured women may qualify for programs that provide IUDs at low or no cost.