Medicine is always trying to find the lowest effective dose for medical treatments, and birth control methods are no exception. Birth control pills have come a long way. Risks today are significantly lower than they were decades ago in the era of high dose pills. More research and development have also taken place with IUD’s (intrauterine devices).
IUD’s have been around for a while. The history of IUD’s dates back to the early 1900’s. Since then, IUD’s have evolved to help give women different choices in effective reversible contraception. The invention of the copper IUD took place in the 1960’s and the hormonal IUD came out soon after that.
The Mirena IUD was released in 1976 and is still popular today. It contains 52 mg of levonorgestrel (LNG). Now a new lower dose hormonal IUD is available which releases only 13.5 mg of LNG called Skyla which was launched in February 2013. It is smaller and is effective for 3 years vs the Mirena which is effective for 5 years.
Women have been very happy with this lower dose IUD option. Side effects consist of irregular vaginal bleeding and spotting. Also, IUD’s are 99% effective and very safe. It is important to be in a monogamous relationship and/or use condoms to prevent STI’s since the risk for pelvic inflammatory infections are greater if you have multiple partners. It is a nice option if you are not consistent in remembering to take oral pills the same time daily and want to avoid pregnancy for 3-5 years. IUD’s are completely reversible in that once these devices are removed, ovulation typically begins the next cycle or two.
An additional smaller low-dose hormonal IUD available in Europe and approved for 5 years use is in early trial stages in the U.S. It is estimated to come to market in late 2017.
Reference: Nelson A et al. Two low-dose levonorgestrel intrauterine contraceptive systems: A randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol 2013 Dec; 122:1205.