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The findings challenge concerns that have persisted since the removal of a harmful IUD (intrauterine device) from the market in the 1970s, according to the researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
"Today's IUDs are not the same as the ones that existed decades ago and are undeserving of the outdated stigma they carry," study lead author Dr. Abbey Berenson, director of the university's Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health, said in a university news release.
"Modern IUDs are safe, cost-effective and provide years of worry-free birth control," she said. "Though more research is needed, this study shows that IUDs should be among the options considered to address teen pregnancy rates."
The researchers analyzed data from about 90,000 IUD users aged 15 to 44 and found that the rate of serious complications was less than 1 percent -- the same among teens as among adults. Serious complications included ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb) and pelvic inflammatory disease.
The study also found that the rate of early discontinuation of IUD use was the same for teens and adults, which suggests that teens were not more likely than adults to have complications, the researchers said.
In all age groups, hormonal IUDs were associated with fewer complications and lower rates of discontinuation than copper IUDs, according to the study, which was published in the May issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
"An IUD is a virtually effortless form of contraception, as it doesn't require remembering to take a pill at the same time each day," Berenson said. "Thus, increasing young women's access to this effective birth control could have a tremendous impact on reducing unintended pregnancies."
The Dalkon Shield, a popular IUD in the 1970s, was found to have grave side effects, including bacterial infections, septic miscarriages and even death.
-- Robert Preidt
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