Your IUD Might Last Even Longer Than You Think

Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
We already know that long-acting birth control options are pretty excellent for a lot of people, but a new study suggests they might even be better than we realize: They may last for a year longer than we thought they did.

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The study, published online recently in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, followed 236 women using a 52-mg levonorgestrel IUD (like the Mirena) and 237 implant users between the ages of 18 and 45. All participants' devices were within six months of expiring, so the researchers followed up with them every six months for 36 months. They were all informed of the pregnancy risks associated with continuing to use their birth control devices for longer than the FDA recommends, which is currently five years for the hormonal IUD and three years for the implant.


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After a year, 197 IUD users and 123 of the implant users still had their expired devices. During that time period, none of the participants using implants and only one with an IUD had gotten pregnant — a failure rate similar to that during the FDA-approved usage timeframe. So, the authors suggest we may be able to use the devices for a year longer than is currently recommended. (This research didn't include the non-hormonal copper IUD, which already lasts up to 10-12 years.)

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Of course, this data is preliminary and won't necessarily result in the FDA changing its recommendations (which are probably conservative for a reason). So, you should definitely chat with your doctor if you're thinking of extending the life of your device. Although everyone's experience with long-acting birth control is different, those who love their device may be able to enjoy the reduced cost and effort that would result from hanging onto it for a little while longer — not to mention the benefit of putting off the (potentially unpleasant) process of getting a replacement. Cheaper and lazier? We'll take it.

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