New IUDs Safer

ByABC News
August 22, 2001, 1:45 PM

Aug. 22 -- IUD three letters that send a chill down the spines of many American women.

The IUD, or intrauterine device, fell out of favor with American women when the contraceptive was linked to such side effects as bleeding, cramping, infection and infertility. The evidence against the device was so convincing that usage in the United States shrank from 10 percent of women using contraceptives 30 years ago to less than 1 percent today.

But some researchers say it's time to put aside the bad press the birth control received decades ago. They say today's IUD is not your mother's, and a new study supports their assertions.

The study, appearing in today's New England Journal of Medicine, looked at close to 2,000 women in Mexico City to establish the relationship between use of the IUD and infertility.

The study, led by epidemiologist David Hubacher, PhD, of the nonprofit research organization Family Health International, found no increased risk of infertility in women who have never given birth with previous use of the copper IUD, a small t-shaped device installed in the uterus that releases copper to prevent fertilization.

What the study did find was a greater incidence of the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia and infertility, suggesting the STD, not the IUD, is responsible for infertility.

"I think this is blockbuster," says Dr. David Grimes of the University of North Carolina, and a contraception expert at Family Health International. "Older studies were pointing fingers at the IUD, and not at STDs."

Bad Rap During 1970s

A lot of the bad IUD press was due to the Dalkon Shield, the plastic IUD that was removed from the market after deaths related to pelvic infection were reported in the mid 1970s. But experts say that IUD was a faulty and poorly designed product.

"A lot of the research conducted in the '70s and '80s lumped the Dalkon Shield together with other IUDs," explains Hubacher, "The point made to the medical community was that all IUDs are dangerous, and this is not true."