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Pearce-ings: reality check about IUDs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released data regarding the use of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), specifically intrauterine devices (IUDs), in adolescents, and suggested ways to increase their use. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists then reiterated its recommendation promoting the use of LARC in adolescents (Obstet Gynecol. 2012;120:983-8). Historically, the use of IUDs in nulliparous females was concerning because of the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (which could lead to infertility), pain at insertion, and the cost. But more recent research has dispelled many of those concerns, and new legislation has made access and affordability a reality; hence, the use of IUDs in teens was recommended. Despite these advances, physicians still are not making teens aware of this method of contraception.

In 2013, two important things occurred. First, emergency contraception was made available over the counter without age restriction. Second, the Affordable Care Act required most private insurance plans to cover at least one type of all 18 Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods for women as prescribed without cost sharing; this reduced the barrier of cost for IUDs. For patients covered by Medicaid, details vary, but in many cases some type of IUD is covered. In considering the best method of contraception in teens, we can all agree contraception is only as good as its proper use. If we remove the concern of infertility secondary to pelvic inflammatory disease and the barrier of cost, we can make the argument that LARC is an ideal choice for young women.

Birth rates for teenagers fell 9% from 2013 to 2014, to 24.2 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 years--a record low according to CDC data. The rate has declined 42% since 2007 and 61% since 1991. Considering that the percent of teens who engage in sexual activity has not changed, the cause of the decline has to be related to increased contraception use and education. Although rates have declined significantly, there is much work to be done to protect our teens from unintended pregnancies.

The Contraceptive Choice Project was designed to give teens the option of birth control with the barrier of cost removed. Sixty-nine percent of 10,000 girls aged 14-17 years chose the IUD (Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010;203[2]:115.el-7). The Contraceptive Choice Project also stated that the teens in this study were 20 times more likely to become pregnant using oral contraceptives, the patch, or a vaginal ring, compared with LARC or an injectable contraceptive. That is a significant statistic given that the choice of birth control used is heavily dependent on the options available. As primary care physicians, we are likely the first line of intervention, so it is important that we do not exclude the options most likely to prevent unintended pregnancies.

The rate of adolescents using IUDs increased from 0.2 to 2.5 in the 2002 and 2006-2010 National Surveys of Family Growth (J Adolesc Health. 2013;53:401-6).

There are choices when it comes to IUDs. ParaGard and Mirena are most well known. ParaGard contains copper and is hormone free; it can be used as emergency contraception and can remain in place for 12 years. Mirena releases levonorgestrel, and can be left in place for 5 years; there now is a generic form. There has been hesitation in using this product in teens because of a marketing decision made when Mirena was brought to the U.S. market. The company sought FDA approval only for women who already had children to avoid concerns about fertility. But research shows IUDS are safe and effective in women of all ages.

Unlike birth control pills, Mirena and Paragard do not reduce acne. But Mirena does reduce bloating and cramping associated with periods. Paragard has unpredictable bleeding and, therefore, is a less favorable choice in women who are not restricted to hormone-free contraception.

Newer brands on the market are Skyla and Liletta. Both are comparable to Mirena but have lower amounts of hormone, so these IUDs will be less effective in controlling the cramping and bloating. Skyla, unlike Mirena, is marketed to teens.

Implementing birth control options in your practice is imperative in caring for adolescents. is a wonderful website that reviews all forms of birth control, and the pros and cons associated with each; it also compares the different types to help young women make the best choice. Another useful website is; this website is dedicated to educating physicians, parents, and adolescents in birth control choices to reduce unplanned pregnancies.

Dr. Pearce is a pediatrician in Frankfort, III. E-mail her at

Caption: The rate of adolescents using IUDs increased from 0.2 to 2.5 in the 2002 and 2006-2010 National Surveys of Family Growth.


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Title Annotation:OPINION
Author:Pearce, Francine
Publication:Pediatric News
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2015
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