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IUD use is up—but not when it comes to emergency contraception

The copper IUD is the most effective EC option around, so why don't more people use it?

The good news: U.S. women with health insurance are increasingly opting for low-cost IUDs. New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed a sixfold increase in IUD use by insured women from 2002 to 2008. The increase was less dramatic among women under 25, even though the IUD has now been officially recommended as safe for women of any age. (Interestingly, over the course of the study the participants increasingly opted for the hormonal IUD over the copper IUD.)

The less-good news: the copper IUD as emergency contraception (EC) is still one of the best-kept secrets in medicine. As an emergency contraceptive, the copper IUD is more effective than any of the available EC pills. But new research from the University of California, San Francisco, shows that even when nurses and doctors know the IUD can be used as EC, they rarely talk to patients about it. The majority of nurses and doctors (85%) had never recommended the copper IUD to a client requesting EC. Of course it's no great shock that health care providers who were comfortable placing copper IUDs were twice as likely to recommend one for EC.

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