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“All right, let’s booty it out,” I said, aptitude advanced in my armchair and buzz heavily at the doctor. What a waste. For the accomplished month, I’d had central my anatomy a gnawing little T-shaped accessory fabricated out of artificial and copper, alleged ParaGard. It had seemed to me an ideal bearing ascendancy solution: invisible, forgettable, long-lasting, awful able and hormone-free.

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ParaGard sits in the uterine cavity, area it changes the mural significantly. Chestnut is annoying to agent and can arrest its mobility. It can additionally actualize an ambiance that is brusque to agent and eggs, preventing implantation.

One aspect of ParaGard has consistently cool me out: It’s an intrauterine device, acceptation that it has to be amid by a healthcare provider. (“Insert” is too simple a word, really). The uterus doesn’t decidedly adore actuality violated, so it employs a gatekeeper, the cervix. The cervix is about a adit of beef that leads from the aerial allocation of the into the abject of the uterus. Normally, the cervical aperture is no bigger than the arch of a pin.

Now imagine, if you will, a abode in a bottle. The abode has to bend collapsed in acclimation to fit through the aperture of the bottle. Already it arrives in the added alveolate section, the abode springs aback to its accepted form. That aforementioned abstraction applies to ParaGard. The accoutrements of the accessory collapse, authoritative it added automated and able to the cervix. Clinicians use a dilating apparatus to aggrandize the cervix and move the IUD forward, into the uterus itself. Already it’s in, its accoutrements pop accessible and voila, you’re 99 percent able from accepting pregnant. Or so the adventure goes.


After spending years on the binding of the contraceptive market, the IUD seems to be everywhere lately. It’s fast acceptable one of the best accepted bearing ascendancy methods in the United States. Two new hormonal models—Skyla and Liletta—have emerged in the aftermost decade. Aloof aftermost year, New York City’s Department of Bloom launched the #MaybetheIUD acquaintance attack in the alms system, blanketing the burghal with ads for the contraceptive. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has alike accounted IUDs safe for use by ually alive teenagers.

But, as I discovered, the IUD bazaar isn’t accessible to all women—especially those whose bodies can’t abide constructed hormones. And the one non-hormonal IUD accessible in the U.S. today—ParaGard—hasn’t afflicted its architecture back the 1980s. So if a hormone-sensitive woman doesn’t acknowledge able-bodied to that model, she has no added options for long-acting, capricious contraception. Worse yet, the abridgement of non-hormonal IUD addition has little to do with accurate limitations and added to do with accumulation margins, announcement campaigns and the affected ability of the bearing ascendancy pill.


My ParaGard admittance arrangement had not gone smoothly. I’d taken a medication alleged Misoprostol to advice relax my cervix and abate affliction during the procedure.

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“Did you booty the us afore you went to bed? The one I prescribed?” the gynecologist asked, animated her ablaze at me.

“Mmhm. At 8pm.” I replied, staring up at the beam tiles.

“It didn’t accessible your cervix at all. It looks normal.”


The affliction was intense, but abandoned because the action lasted forever. Afterwards a few minutes, a adviser in some far bend of the allowance started beeping its affair about my blurred claret pressure.

“I charge you to booty some actual abysmal breaths,” the accessory assistant said. I complied.

Eventually, it was over. Afterwards a few annual in recovery, I calculating fabricated my way to the ultrasound room. The doctor bare to accomplish abiding the IUD was anchored properly. As I waited for the ultrasound tech, acrimony of affliction broken the lower appropriate ancillary of my abdomen, causing me to blot in air. The ultrasound did not accord the adapted result. The IUD was sitting too low to accord able protection.

“It ability be OK. Let’s see how it looks in a month. If it hasn’t confused up by then, we’ll booty it out,” the doctor said. Admitting my discomfort, I resisted this.

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“Is there any way to aloof acclimatize it while I’m here?” The doctor and the ultrasound tech looked at anniversary other, silently debating whether I could handle addition go-round. They agreed to try again. It hurt, but by that point I capital to prove my own affliction tolerance. I larboard the arrangement with ParaGard in place.

For the aing month, I suffered patiently with my new pet. I acclimated a heating pad, slept a lot and accustomed to avoid the scrapes of affliction that occasionally busted my lower appropriate side. I acceptable ParaGard’s misbehavior. Afterwards all, an acclimation aeon was to be expected.

But it was all for naught. At my aftereffect appointment, the doctor apparent that the IUD had descended yet again. By then, the abandoned absolute advantage was to aish it. The doctor explained that ParaGard sometimes doesn’t assignment able-bodied for women who haven’t had accouchement yet, back their uteruses are smaller. It is the bigger of the IUDs.

Seeing my blue expression, she appropriate that I attending into Skyla or Mirena, which are abate and, she added, “don’t accommodate a lot of hormones.” (It depends on what you beggarly by “a lot.” Abounding women application Skyla, Liletta and Mirena abode that their periods cease completely.)

We’d been over this before. I had to break far abroad from constructed changeable hormones. For me, they annual abhorrent swings of abasement and anxiety. But, admitting my adamantine line, doctors kept blame me against bearing ascendancy accessories and drugs that relied on counterfeit versions of estrogen and progesterone.

“All of this bearing ascendancy business is a affliction in the , isn’t it?” the doctor said, smiling. She confused to leave the assay room.

“Yeah, it’s about like it’s unnatural,” I anticipation to myself.


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Because of my acuteness to constructed hormones, my options for able bearing ascendancy are limited. The aborticide ante for condoms and diaphragms, two of my few options, are almost high—around 12-18 percent of women will become abundant afterwards a year of archetypal use—and those numbers accomplish me nervous. (By contrast, ParaGard boasts an absorbing success rate—only 0.8 percent of women will get abundant aural a year of archetypal use.) Added options accommodate contraceptive sponges, cervical caps and spermicide, but none of those accept about the aforementioned success amount as the IUD.

Though I apperceive I’m not alone, there is no adamantine abstracts about women who accept to await on non-hormonal contraception. In added words, this is a dark atom in agreement of accurate research. In fact, a contempo commodity in The Journal of Family Planning and Changeable Bloom assured that analysis about why women abandon contraceptive methods does not booty into annual women’s abstract experiences. And alike admitting hormonal contraceptives are broadly “accepted,” it’s not aberrant to apprehend women accuse about affection swings, anxiety, aberrant bleeding, decreased drive and added problems brought on by constructed hormones.

Considering about bisected (51 percent) of the 6.6 actor pregnancies in the United States anniversary year (3.4 million) are unintended, and an estimated 4 in 10 of these end in abortion, I started to admiration why there aren’t added options for women like me. Why is ParaGard the abandoned non-hormonal IUD on the market? Why does it assume like I’m ambidextrous with armament alfresco the branch of women’s health? I started researching.

In the mid-1960s, ParaGard was built-in in the apperception of Howard Tatum, a biomedical researcher for the Citizenry Council. (The Citizenry Council is a nonprofit alignment with eugenicist roots; it was accustomed by John D. Rockefeller III in the aboriginal 1950s). Tatum accomplished that antecedent IUD designs had been ambiguous because their admeasurement and appearance did not accede with the anchor of women’s uteruses. In response, he created a abate IUD anatomy that took its cues from uterine contours. Jaime Zipper, a Chilean doctor affiliated with the World Bloom Organization, added nut to that frame, accretion its capability as a contraceptive.

After its FDA approval in 1984, ParaGard was marketed domestically by GynoPharma starting in 1988. Back then, it has been purchased, acquired or re-labeled at atomic 15 times. Yet, admitting abounding years and abounding owners, the architecture of ParaGard has not changed. (TEVA Biologic Industries now owns the rights to the product.)

Dr. Chanelle Coble-Sadaphal specializes in boyish anesthetic and long-acting contraceptives at NYU’s Langone Medical Center. She offered one account for why IUD addition has been slow: “In any chat about IUDs, you accept to abode the past, and what happened with one accurate IUD in the 1970s—the Dalkon Shield,” she says. “It looked affectionate of scary, like a spider with little tentacles. Not article you’d appetite put in.”

Coble-Sadaphal explained that the Dalkon Shield emerged during the animal revolution, a time back appeal for non-hormonal bearing ascendancy methods was high. The accessory got pushed to bazaar quickly; FDA approval processes were abundant beneath acrimonious then.

The Dalkon Shield was acclimated widely, but to the agitation of women and biologic companies it had a cardinal of abandoned ancillary effects, alignment from pelvic anarchic ache to infertility. Coble-Sadaphal says that alike admitting the accessory was pulled from the bazaar anon afterwards it emerged, added than 300,000 women filed abrasion lawsuits, which created a abiding stigma about the IUD.

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During the beachcomber of medical abrasion lawsuits implicating the Dalkon Shield amid 1971 and 1976, abounding biologic manufacturers voluntarily removed their IUDs from the market. “Nobody capital to get messy,” Coble-Sadaphal says. “You’re ambidextrous with women and infertility—these are actual acute issues. I anticipate the biologic apparatus aloof affectionate of chock-full and said, ‘We don’t charge to allot any added assets to this—look what can happen.’”

But that’s not the abandoned affair endlessly biologic companies from advance in non-hormonal IUDs. According to Elizabeth Siegel Watkins, accessory assistant of amusing anesthetic at the University of California, San Francisco, biologic announcement campaigns in the 1990s anchored the bearing ascendancy us as the ascendant adjustment of contraception. They created a added bazaar by touting the pills’ accessory effects, such as analysis for acne. With this about-face in biologic focus, added contraceptive analysis slowed tremendously.

Dr. Watkins explains, “Although bearing ascendancy has consistently been pitched in the United States as an alone band-aid rather than as a accessible bloom strategy, the purpose of articulate contraceptives was accepted by manufacturers, physicians and consumers to be the blockage of pregnancy, a basal healthcare charge for women of changeable age. Back 1990, the agreeable of that bulletin has changed, absorption a about-face in the biologic industry’s acumen of the contraception business. This change was brought about by the industry’s move abroad from analysis and development in bearing ascendancy and by the advance of the chic of medications accepted as affairs drugs.”

Lifestyle drugs, according to Watkins, “generally call medications that are advised to advance a person’s affection of activity by alleviative beneath austere conditions; they accept additionally been alleged cosmetic, life-enhancing, recreational or discretionary.” Back you attending at bearing ascendancy us business campaigns over the aftermost 20 years, you’ll apprehension an accretion accent on the accessory furnishings of bearing ascendancy pills: abscess reduction, beneath common menstruation and analysis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This business action attracts a broader customer population. Don’t charge to anticipate pregnancy? Well, you’ve got acne! No ally in your future? You’ve still got those annoying periods!

Watkins additionally addendum that added acrimonious government regulation, the acceleration of bearing ascendancy lawsuits and bazaar assimilation played a role in slowing contraceptive innovation.

Other experts say IUD addition has been around absent because the artefact aloof isn’t profitable. In fact, several above biologic companies accept stakes in both the us and the IUD—arguably a battle of interest. Bayer Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Skyla and Mirena, additionally offers Natazia, a aggregate bearing ascendancy pill. TEVA Pharmaceuticals, maker of ParaGard, owns the Camrese, Apri 28, Aranelle and Aviane bearing ascendancy pills—among others.

The us is taken daily, its decree renewed monthly, while the IUD is a distinct accessory installed already every three to 10 years. Whereas the IUD is abandoned purchased already or twice, the us is a abiding banknote cow.

“I don’t anticipate there’s any analytic obstacle to developing IUDs,” says Dr. Daniel Mishell, assistant of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California’s Keek School of Anesthetic and an adviser at Citizenry Council. “I aloof anticipate that there wasn’t that abundant accumulation to be gained.”

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Judy Norsigian, women’s bloom activist and co-author of Our Bodies, Ourselves explains that biologic companies will generally buy up abate companies whose articles attempt with their own. Afresh they’ll either nix the artefact at affair or abort to advance it.

I asked TEVA how it balances its aggressive stakes in ParaGard and the bearing ascendancy pill. Michelle Larkin, TEVA’s accessory administrator of communications, evaded my question, emphasizing in an email the charge for “women to accept admission to a array of contraceptive options.” Back I asked whether the aggregation had any affairs to acclimate ParaGard or accomplish it smaller, Larkin responded, “At this time we accept no updates to accommodate apropos any approaching adaptations of ParaGard which is adumbrated for intrauterine contraception for up to 10 years, and has no contraindications for use in nulliparous [never pregnant] women.”

Despite all this, Coble-Sadaphal says we’re experiencing an IUD renaissance acknowledgment to adolescent consumers acquirements about the assurance and capability of the method. Healthcare providers are on board, too. “The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists … if you go to their website, there’s IUD advice aflame everywhere,” she says. Likewise, the American Academy of Pediatrics afresh appear a action account adage the IUD should be offered to ually alive adolescents.

Coble-Sadaphal is optimistic about the approaching of the IUD. With connected acquaintance and greater research, she estimates that we will see amid bristles and 10 new accessories in the aing decade, admitting it’s cryptic how abounding will be non-hormonal.

For now, I’m ashore browsing the website of Pregna International Ltd.—which articles upwards of 11 copper-based IUD models, none of which accept been accustomed for use in the U.S.—and apprehensive if I should accident purchasing one. The site’s banderole proclaims, “Pregna contraceptive solutions can accord you abandon to adore your activity for a continued time.” Pregna is based in India and has offices in 140 countries. It claims to be the world’s bigger architect of intrauterine contraceptives. Some of the IUDs it sells attending a little hostile, admittedly. With its arced anatomy and artificial spines, the Inara Cu375 reminds me of a ambit crab. Added models attending about identical to ParaGard, abandoned smaller.

The Pregna website feels unsettlingly ramshackle. It has a loud abnegation area and assorted advisory videos for providers; these authenticate able IUD admittance techniques to those who are unfamiliar. There’s no acknowledgment of authoritative bodies or assurance standards.

But still, I’m curious. Could one of these assignment for me?

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Photo address of Flickr user  mara licensed beneath Creative Commons 2.0

CORRECTION: Information on the functionality of the nut IUD has been adapted to bigger reflect how the accessory interacts with the uterus and sperm.

Carson Anatomy is a freelance announcer alive against her master’s in Literary Reportage at NYU. You can acquisition added of her assignment in Souciant, Chronogram and Metroland: The Capital Region’s Alt-Weekly.

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