It’s hard to think of any form of birth control that’s had a more checkered history than the IUD. By the late 1970s, the intrauterine device was used by almost 10 percent of American women, but thirty years later, that number had fallen to less than 2 percent. Even as ads for Mirena pop up all over television and magazines, some doctors remain reluctant to prescribe either Mirena or its non-hormonal counterpart, ParaGard, to women that have not had children.
These lingering fears can be traced back to the Dalkon Shield, an IUD that was popular in the ’70s. The Shield had a significant design flaw: a multifilament string that allowed bacteria to “swim up” into the uterus, causing injury, sepsis, miscarriage and even death. The Shield and other IUDs of that era were also linked to pelvic inflammatory disease, and thanks to the resulting lawsuits and bad press, pharmaceutical companies halted research and manufacture of IUDs. Later studies challenged the validity of the link between IUDs and pelvic inflammatory disease, and also helped determine that properly designed IUDs were safe for use. Modern IUDs use a monofilament string, which does not allow for bacteria to enter the uterus. [Read more...]