How I learned to stop worrying and love the IUD

Here’s the rest of the latest birth control data from the February issue of Consumer Reports.

One method of contraception that’s coming back strong, or at least, should be—the intra-uterine device, or IUD. The new and improved IUDs are extremely effective, with a failure rate of less than 1 percent. But fewer than 1 percent of American women now sport these peerless googoo-stoppers, and the best guess for this is that there’s still a lingering freak-out factor stemming from all those gross pelvic infection stories from the ’70s. Here’s a quote that re-calibrates IUD reality: “Today’s IUDs have an excellent safety record, allow women years of ‘set it and forget it’ contraception, and can be less expensive overall than other methods.” Cost of the 21st-century IUD is $300 for the copper model (10 years!), or the plastic doohickey, which costs $400 for a five-year run.

Slightly worse birth control—the good ole love glove. If strapped on perfectly, it has a surprisingly good failure rate of only 2 percent. But since it’s the male that’s the operator here, and a very excited, hump-crazed male at that, it’s little surprise that the operator error rate here is not good. Condoms fail 15 percent of the time during typical use. The female condom? Too weird and unwieldy to take seriously.

Even worse method—the diaphragm. Using the tadpole-thwarter is semi-risky business; 6-percent failure rate when used perfectly, and an unsettling 16-percent failure rate when used typically. How about the cervical cap? Only for thrill seekers. A 9-percent failure rate when used perfectly, and the same 16-percent “oops” rate when used typically. In this same general zone are the Catholics and their very wobbly rhythm method. When used perfectly, it fails anywhere from 1-9 percent of the time, which is not a bad score. But, since women are women and not automatons, inevitable irregularities in the fertility cycle mean that the typical failure rate of rhythmatists is more along the lines of 25 percent. Proof positive that this is still an excellent contraceptive approach for those who want large families.

And the winner of the “Reproductive Russian Roulette” award goes to the spermicide-only approach. A 15-percent failure rate when used perfectly, and a tragically laughable “say-hello-to-sonograms” failure rate of 29 percent when used typically.

Bottom line—if you’re a woman and you’re serious about not making babies, you have some good, solid, options. The Pill, the Patch, Depo Provera injections, and the new IUDs are all safe and truly effective, with new humans showing up less than 1 percent of the time. If you’re a man and you really want to effectively control your spawning powers, you’ve got two choices: (1) be cool, calm and meticulous when latexing your diculous, or (2) suck it up and take that quick, simple trip to Snip City.