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IUDs Most Cost-Effective Birth Control

Best Long-Range Option for Effectiveness and Wallet, Says Study

Types of IUDs continued...

Trussell, a longtime researcher on the costs of contraception, says his study is similar to previous research suggesting that IUD devices are the best financial bet because of their high rate of preventing unwanted pregnancies, which cost about $13 billion a year in the U.S. Over a one-year period, however, IUDs are more expensive and they are not generally recommended for teenaged and young women who may later have children.

By comparison, his study -- based on having 72 sexual encounters a year -- showed the effectiveness and five-year costs of these contraceptive methods:

  • Birth control pills: 96% effective, cost $2,578
  • Diaphragms: 80% effective, cost $2,960
  • Female condoms: 79% effective, cost $3,107
  • Three-month injectable, 79% effective, costs $2,195
  • Spermicides: 74% effective, cost $3,002
  • Cervical caps: 60% effective, cost $3,831

These findings come as no surprise to contraception expert Mitchell D. Creinin, MD, an ob-gyn at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of its Family Planning and Research division.

"IUDs are incredibly safe, incredibly effective, and easy to use -- and a very inexpensive procedure in the long run," he tells WebMD. "They are extremely popular in other countries, but for whatever reason, not widely used in the U.S."

One possible explanation: Only about 20% of medical insurance companies cover the costs of IUDs. "What is truly asinine is the same insurance companies that will cover sterilization, an expensive procedure that requires time in the operating room, and other forms of contraception will not cover the costs of IUDs, which provide a greater or equal efficacy as most others," Creinin says.

Another: In the U.S., IUDs continue to have bad reputation that started some three decades ago, although in most developing countries, Creinin says, they are more widely prescribed than oral contraceptives or other birth control methods. And in several European countries, they are used by at least one in four women of reproductive age.

"Back in the 1960s, the pill became the most commonly used contraception method in the U.S., but in the late '60s, studies came out suggesting it causes heart attack and strokes, so women turned to the IUD," says Creinin. "It was during the sexual revolution and there were lots of (sexually transmitted) infections, and IUDs bore the brunt of bore brunt of the blame, when in reality it was that people were sleeping around a lot."

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