When doctors choose birth control, they make different choices than most American women. Women’s health providers are more than three times as likely to select a long-acting reversible contraceptive — like an IUD or an implant — than the general population, according to a new study in the journal Contraception.
IUDs have been steadily rising in popularity among the American public, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While fewer than two percent of reproductive-aged women opted for long-acting contraceptives back in 2002, that rate has been on the uptick ever since. Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood clinics have seen a 91 percent increase in the use of IUDs and implants among their patients. Now, among the U.S. women who rely on some type of birth control, about 12 percent are using IUDs and implants.
But family planning experts have been even quicker to adopt this method of birth control. The new study, which was conducted by researchers affiliated with Planned Parenthood, found that 42 percent of the women’s health care providers who are using a birth control method opt for a long-acting reversible contraceptive.
“The difference in contraceptive choices between providers and the general population is even higher than we expected,” Dr. Ashlesha Patel, the study’s lead researcher, said in a statement. “This study shows that when it comes to their personal health care decisions, women’s health care providers are three and a half times more likely to choose IUDs and implants.”
That makes sense, considering the fact that IUDs have been hailed as the “best birth control” out there. The method is enthusiastically endorsed by pediatricians and gynecologists alike. Because IUDs don’t require women to take any action after they’ve been inserted into the uterus, they cut down on the potential for user error, which dramatically increases their effectiveness. Plus, they can last up to 12 years.
Despite the positive benefits of IUDs, it’s taken some time to slowly shift Americans toward using long-acting birth control. That’s partly because, when IUDs were first developed, there were concerns about the method’s safety. Some people harbor lingering doubts about whether the modern version of the birth control may have the same issues, even though recent research confirms otherwise. Across the medical field, doctors also need more training about how to talk to their patients about this method; recent studies confirm that pediatricians don’t know enough about IUDs.
Some of the stigma surrounding this particular contraceptive method has lessened as American women have started talking more about their own IUDs. This birth control inspires a type of cult following that leads users to evangelize about the benefits of their method of choice. Supporters have live-tweeted and blogged their experiences getting IUDs inserted, created Twitter hashtags to connect with other women who use IUDs, and even designed IUD-themed clothing and jewelry.
The Contraception study concludes that perhaps family planning doctors could take a similar — if subdued — approach to spreading the word about their own IUDs. The researchers conclude that, since doctors report higher IUD use than the general population, “providers might consider sharing these findings with patients, while maintaining patient choice and autonomy.”