Whitney, a 21-year-old college student studying in Providence, R.I., was on the Pill for close to a year and doing fine. But when her doctor prescribed her a drug called Topamax for depression, which can make birth control pills less effective, she was forced to make a change. First she tried the NuvaRing, but then she made the switch to the ParaGard copper IUD for the following three reasons.
"I wasn't really happy with the idea of putting more hormones in my body than necessary," says Whitney. The Pill and the NuvaRing are both hormonal methods, while the copper IUD is a surgically implanted device that prevents the egg from being fertilized by sperm. The other IUD on the market in the U.S., the noncopper Mirena, is also surgically implanted, but it works by releasing hormones.
"I didn't know how I'd be able to transport [the Pill] and store it overseas during my semester studying abroad in France," Whitney says. "I also wasn't sure if I could get refills overseas. I'm a very busy student, so birth control is the last thing I need to worry about, and with the IUD I don't have to think about it."
More about the IUD
"I was on crappy insurance at the time and was spending $40 a month on the ring," she says. "With the IUD you pay a one-time cost of around $250, and it lasts for up to 10 years. If I kept paying $40 a month for that long, it would have cost me close to $5,000."
A downside to using an IUD
Whitney wasn't told to take ibuprofen before the procedure, and she refused a numbing shot because she figured the shot itself would hurt. (Most providers recommend local anesthetic.) "I'm not gonna lie," she says. "It hurt like crazy and I was cramping a lot for a few days. Plus my periods were irregular for the first six months—but now they're back to normal."
She finds all that worth the trouble, though: "There are no hormones controlling me and it's natural, so that bit of discomfort in the beginning was well worth it for the next 10 years."