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Web Information on IUDs Often Inaccurate

Researchers Say Misleading Information May Sway Women Against Intrauterine Devices

Survey Says ... continued...

But less than half specifically stated that the IUD is safe. Half correctly stated that the IUD increases infection or inflammation of the pelvic organs but did not point out that this is an uncommon occurrence and the risk is greatest in the first few weeks and falls significantly after that point.

Two-thirds incorrectly stated that the device increases ectopic pregnancy risk. In fact, the IUD reduces the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, and women with a history of ectopic pregnancy can still use an IUD. If a woman becomes pregnant while using an IUD, it is more likely (about 5%) that the pregnancy will be ectopic.

In addition, 25% of the sites said it is a fertility risk. There is no scientific evidence that IUDs decrease the ability to get pregnant later on.

Provider-oriented sites, however, gave less false information and more accurately presented risks.

Peer Review Adds Credibility

This does not surprise Amy E. Pollack, MD, MPH, president of the New York-based nonprofit reproductive health organization EngenderHealth."Providers more and more are very trained to navigate the web, and they know what peer-reviewed information is, so they look for peer-reviewed resources for information," Pollack tells WebMD. "Whereas the general consumer doesn't understand what peer-reviewed information is."

Peer-reviewed information means that the data have been reviewed by a panel of experts in the field to assure that it is accurate and worthy of publication.

Pollack agrees that science-related information on the web is often lower-quality and added that on reproductive health in particular, information was often biased. "People have a political, ethical, or moral point of view about family planning that causes them to create sites that often appear to be consumer-driven and fair, with medical information, and in fact have a bias," she says.

Hilda Hutcherson, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and associate dean at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, says she thought most of the information on the web was not entirely different from what practitioners were telling their patients.

"I'd tend to agree much of the information given about IUDs tends to be on the negative side," Hutcherson tells WebMD. But "I think the web is just reflecting the prevailing thought among the majority of obstetricians and gynecologists."

Physicians disclose more negatives because they are concerned about being sued, she says. "It's so litigious in gynecology that doctors have to be so careful with everything they prescribe to patients."

She says family planning advocates tend to be less worried about lawsuits and, therefore, perhaps more pro-IUD.

RHTP, a group that seeks to educate women about all birth control methods, including the IUD, might be perceived as having a pro-IUD bias, but Moore says, "We don't accept money from pharmaceutical companies and we don't provide services to women, so there's no way in which we benefit from increased use of IUDs."

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