Great News About IUDs

If the idea of having something inserted into your body and leaving it there for years freaks you out, you can rest easy: A new study published in the May issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that the intrauterine device—a quarter-size, T-shaped contraption that sits inside the uterus—is a safe birth control method for women of any age, including teenagers. Among the study findings: less than once percent of users developed complications, and discontinuation rates were the same across all age groups (a tip-off that younger women experienced no greater side effects or dissatisfaction than older users did).

It’s welcome news, especially since IUDs are more than 99 percent effective at blocking pregnancy for up to 10 hassle-free years. Hopefully the study will put to rest longstanding rumors that IUDs are potentially harmful. Thinking of going to the gyno for your own IUD? Here’s what you need to know:

Complications are rare
Serious side effects from IUDs, such as ectopic pregnancy and pelvic inflammatory disease, occurred in less than one percent of the women in the new study, according to researchers. All birth control methods carry some health risks, of course. But as long as you don’t already have an STD or another infection when your gyno inserts the IUD—and you always use condoms if you’re not monogamous to reduce the odds of contracting one—there’s little to worry about, says Alyssa Dweck, an OBGYN in Mt. Kisco, NY, and coauthor of V Is for Vagina.

Inserting one shouldn’t be uncomfortable
An IUD works by sitting in your uterus and emitting either the hormone progestin or a small amount of copper, a natural spermicide. Getting either type in place requires a five-minute gyno visit, during which your doctor will fit it through your cervix and into the uterus. “Many women don’t feel a thing during insertion, while others experience a twinge or two of pain, like what you feel during a Pap test,” says Dweck. Taking an OTC painkiller beforehand and making the appointment during the last days of your period, when your cervix is naturally more open, will reduce discomfort.

It’s not just for moms
Doctors used to advise child-free women to chose another contraceptive method; the thinking was that since their uteruses hadn’t been stretched out during pregnancy, they were more prone to side effects like cramping and even having the IUD pop out and into the vagina. But these risks were always very small, says Dweck, and they’re practically nonexistent thanks to a new hormonal IUD called Skyla. Approved earlier this year, Skyla is smaller than other IUDs and is specifically designed to fit the less flexible uterus of a woman who hasn’t given birth.

You can remove it whenever you want
IUDs are a long-lasting form of birth control you don’t have to think about or fuss with, and that’s part of the appeal. The copper-emitting type, called Paraguard, can safely remain in the uterus for as long as 10 years. A second kind that administers a small dose of the hormone progestin, known as Mirena, can stay in for up to five years, while Skyla lasts for three. “Still, if you decide for any reason that you don’t want it in anymore, your gyno can remove it in a quick office visit, and your fertility will return with no problems,” says Dweck.

One type might make your period easier
Women who use the Mirena IUD tend to report easier, lighter, less crampy periods. On the other hand, some Paraguard users say that their flow is heavier, longer, and more painful. (Skyla hasn’t been on the market long enough to know for sure how it affects menstruation.) The benefits for your period may be why the new study found that hormonal IUDs were associated with fewer complications and lower discontinuation rates than copper IUDs.

They don’t cost as much as you think
True, the up-front fees of an IUD can run you $ 500 to $ 1,000, says Dweck (you’re paying for the device itself, as well as the doctor’s visit to insert it and then a follow-up visit six weeks later to make sure it’s in place). But many insurance plans cover part or all of the cost. And the initial hit to your pocketbook might end up being better in the long run than what you’ll pay shelling out each month for your pill prescription.

photo: Photodisc/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
New Study: IUDs Cut Risk of Cervical Cancer in Half
Which Birth Control Is Right for You?
Birth Control: Back to the Future?

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Breaking STD News From the CDC

According to a new infographic just released by the Centers for Disease Control, 24,000 young women a year are affected by infertility due to undiagnosed STDs. What’s more, only 55 percent of the young adults who have Chlamydia actually know they have it—and only 35 percent of those with Gonorrhea are aware of it. Here, more sobering stats:

Get more info on STDs and sexual health:

Types of STDs: Trouble Down Below

Safe Sex: Lay Down Some Rubber!

Scary News About STDs

Beyond Condoms

7 Surprising STD Facts

Why Isn’t Random Hooking Up Scary Anymore?

Two People, One STD—Is Sex Safe?

thumbnail photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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Good News: You Don’t Need to Find a Husband in College

Within hours of when her letter to the editor went live on the website of The Daily Princetonian, Princeton University’s student newspaper, Susan A. Patton knew she had hit a nerve.


“TKquote,” says Patton, who spoke with Women’s Health yesterday. Soon afterward, the site crashed altogether, presumably from the influx of traffic generated by Patton’s letter.

For what it’s worth, Patton stands by the message expressed in her letter—in spite of the intense public ire it’s received.

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News Flash: Your Paycheck Is Smaller

Do you know exactly what’s going in and out of your bank account? Before you answer, consider this: Almost half of Americans don’t, according to a new survey from The survey results indicate that 48 percent of people in the U.S. are unaware that their paychecks were slashed by two percent in January, when a tax cut that had been in effect since 2011 expired.

Each month, surveys approximately 1,000 people in the U.S. about their finances as part of its monthly Financial Security Index. The surveys include five standard questions that cover everything from how secure people feel in their jobs to how comfortable they are with the amount of debt they have, plus a topical question that changes each time. For March’s survey, asked people how their finances were affected by the change in payroll tax.

If you’re thinking “What change in the payroll tax?” right about now, here’s a refresher course: In 2011 and 2012, U.S. employees got a two percent tax cut, thanks to the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act. That meant that people across America got to keep two percent of their salaries that would have otherwise gone to Social Security. The payroll tax cut was designed to give workers more take-home pay, but it expired at the end of 2012—so you’re now bringing home less cash on payday.

In addition to the 48 percent of survey respondents who said they were unaware of the change in the payroll tax, seven percent said they were unaffected by it. Eight percent said they’re now putting less money into savings, and three percent said they have scaled back on their retirement contributions. Just 30 percent of respondents said they had curbed their spending because of the tax cut expiration.

While two percent may sound small, it definitely adds up: If your salary is $ 50,000, you’ll pay about $ 1,000 more in taxes this year. So if you don’t plan accordingly, you could do some serious damage to your bank account.

TELL US: How do you cut back in little ways when you have less spending money? Share your tips in the comments!

photo: Hemera/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
The Best Apps for Saving Money
Sneaky Money-Suckers
10 Ways to Save More Money on Groceries

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Scary Money News

Besides wrinkles, there’s one thing that nobody wants more of: debt. And while people in the U.S. are less likely to be in the red than they were in the past, those who do have debt are even deeper in the hole, according to a just-released report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

To track the ups and downs of U.S. household debt, economists took a look at money owed by American families in 2000 and 2011 and adjusted the figures for inflation. Their findings: the percentage of U.S. households in debt declined from 74 percent to 69 percent. Unfortunately, people who carried debt in 2011 owed a median of $ 70,000—nearly $ 21,000 more than the inflation-adjusted figure from the year 2000. And it gets worse: The net worth of most U.S. households—as in total, not just those that were in debt—dropped by nearly $ 13,000 during the years examined by the study.

Compulsive shopping isn’t the culprit here—college loans and medical bills were more likely to be behind people’s debt than credit card statements.

Want to get out of the hole—or make sure to stay in the black? Start with these simple ways to avoid debt  and manage any outstanding balance you might have.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from WH:
Money Secrets Couples Keep
Quiz: Are You Wasting Your Money?
Recession-Proof Your Money

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