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IUDs May Have a Surprising Health Benefit

woman thinking

An observational study conducted at the Keck School of Medicine of USC determined that intrauterine devices (IUDs) may have the surprising health benefit of lowering the instances of cervical cancer.

Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third highest cancer among women. Projected statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that, by 2035, the numbers in the United States alone will climb to 756,000.

According to the information collected from 16 different epidemiological studies, (i.e. studies of disease in different populations), the results of 12,000 women from around the world who used IUDs were analyzed. Findings revealed that invasive cervical cancer among them was lowered by 30%.

Though this revelation is both hopeful and promising, doctors urge you to remember that the statistics are currently based solely on observation and not clinical trials. A great deal more exhaustive research must be done in controlled settings before these conclusions are found to be of merit. Clinical trials require years of intense scrutiny, but if this correlation is proven, it can offer a beacon of hope for women everywhere. Until that time, it is recommended that you be vigilant, schedule regular cancer screening, and vaccinate against the HPV virus—the latter preferably before sexual activity begins.

How Does an IUD Work?

An IUD is a device formed like a letter T and is used as a method of birth control. A gynecologist inserts it into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. It is 99% effective and can last anywhere from 3 to 12 years, but can be removed at any time.

To date, there are two kinds of IUDs: hormonal and non-hormonal IKUDs.  Traditional non-hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by releasing copper which causes an inflammatory effect. This reaction inhibits sperm movement, stopping it from reaching the egg to achieve ovulation. More recently manufactured IUDs are hormonal. These devices release synthetic progestin. High progestin levels in the body form thick cervical mucus that is hostile to sperm, preventing it from reaching the egg and succeeding at fertilization.

Since hormonal IUDs are a fairly new concept, it is assumed that the subjects used the copper-releasing types, but this information still needs to be clarified.

Exactly why IUDs can lower cervical cancer rates is still a mystery. Speculation is that when the physician is making sure the device is placed correctly, this adjustment in the area known as the transformation zone results in an immune response, protecting the cervix from the pre-invasive lesions which lead to cervical cancer. It is also thought that IUD’s may assist the body in repelling Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections, which carry the most danger of triggering cervical cancer.

For many women, the benefits and convenience of an IUD far outweigh the possible risks. IUDs eliminate the worry of forgetting to take a daily pill or renewing a monthly oral contraceptive prescription. Periods are often lighter-even non-existent, so IUDs can also prevent anemia from excessive monthly blood loss. There is no need to interrupt ’the mood’ to insist on a condom to prevent conception–as long as you are in a trusted monogamous relationship. Last, but not least, the almost 100% effectiveness gives women complete peace of mind, allowing them to enjoy lovemaking without worrying about babies they’re not prepared to have.

Though the recent findings and theories provide an optimistic outlook to both women and cancer research, specialists, including those of us at Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists, caution against pinning your hopes on these yet unproven hypotheses. Insisting on an IUD solely to prevent cervical cancer is both unwise and sometimes dangerous.

IUD’s ensure against pregnancy and can possibly lower your risk of a deadly disease based on this new discovery, but they do not guard against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or infections (STIs). It is recommended that a condom and/or spermicide always be used, especially if intimacy is with a new partner.

IUD’s can cause cramping, pain, and spotting between periods. You may also experience irregular periods. IUDs can also slip out of place, causing pregnancy-and possible ectopic pregnancy if you are unaware of your condition.

An unknown allergy to copper, if you are given the non-hormonal IUD, can be life-threatening-possibly fatal. In rare cases, an IUD put in place incorrectly can push through the wall of the uterus, which may necessitate removal through surgery.

Are You a Good Candidate for an IUD? 

Because every woman’s body is unique, an IUD may or may not be right for you.  In order to make the right decision that benefits you the most, we take the time to study your medical history in depth. We evaluate any medications and supplements you may be using, run tests if necessary, establish that all is well with a pelvic examination, take into consideration any food or product sensitivities, inquire about allergies and much more. The smallest detail may be of utmost importance in establishing the proper course of birth control for your individual needs.

Our extensive training and accumulated knowledge give us the tools we need to make sure your pelvic and reproductive health is guarded at all times. Alternative birth control methods to an IUD may be prescribed in your case, along with full disclosure of any risks, possible side effects, and percentage of effectiveness. Some of these additional methods are:

  • Vaginal ring (Nuvaring)
  • Birth control patch
  • Birth control pills
  • Copper non-hormonal IUD
  • Hormonal IUD
  • Female condom
  • Male condom
  • Spermicides
  • Cervical cap
  • Depo-Provera injection
  • Diaphragm
  • Sponge
  • Birth control implant

If you no longer wish to have children, you may opt for tubal ligation, a procedure our surgeons are very capable of performing.

If you prefer not to use any of these methods or are unable to tolerate them, we can, upon request, counsel or instruct you on the Fertility Awareness-Based methods (FAMS) and withdrawal methods.

It remains to be seen if the surprising health benefits of IUDs observed in the above mentioned studies do indeed have potential merit before relying on the findings to prevent cervical cancer. If they do show irrefutable proof of prevention, Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists will most likely be among the first of the OB-GYN facilities in Atlanta to implement those findings in the daily care we provide to our patients.

Why Choose Cherokee Women’s for Your Birth Control Options

All methods of birth control carry risks. This is why it’s important that you choose an accredited physician to determine the best option for you if you are trying to prevent pregnancy.

At Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists, we have three doubly accredited urogynecologists- Drs. Litrel, Haley, and Gandhi. All three hold certification in Obstetrics-Gynecology and in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS), the latter being an enviable recognition requiring years of training and experience before receiving approval and acceptance by the American Board of Medical Specialists. Furthermore, all three are only among very small, select group of physicians who hold these degrees and practice privately in Atlanta.

Together, along with an additional stellar staff that makes us a broad-based practice offering multiple services, Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists was voted “Best OB-Gyn in Towne Lake, Canton and Woodstock, making us a wise choice for not only your birth control necessities, but also for all your other feminine health and wellness needs.

Call today to schedule an appointment to discuss what birth control options are safest and most beneficial for you at 770.720.7733.