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Stanford and PSI researchers test safer, more convenient post-partum IUD inserter

Stanford’s Paul Blumenthal, MD, MPH, and his colleagues at Population Services International have won a grant from “Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development” to expand testing of a simple, safe post-partum IUD inserter for women in the developing world.

In a July 31 presentation that resembled a high-school science fair, the group presented its proposal in Washington, D.C. to a team of judges, who picked it from among some 400 submissions, said Blumenthal, a professor of ob-gyn at Stanford and PSI’s medical director. The $250,000 seed grant will enable the researchers to test the device on a much larger scale among women in India.

The device provides “one-stop-shopping” for women seeking a long-term form of birth control. A woman can deliver a baby in the hospital, then have the device inserted either immediately after giving birth or sometime over the next 24-48 hours. Blumenthal told me:

It simplifies a process which has been complicated until now. We think it will show it is safer in terms of less contamination. And it will be much easier for clinicians to learn and a LOT more convenient. You can take it out of the package, insert it and call it a day, compared to the forceps routine clinicians have been using up to now.

Currently, physicians both in the United States and the developing world use forceps to insert the IUD into the fundus of the uterus, then remove the forceps, hopefully, without accidentally extracting the IUD. This process requires a very skilled clinician, can be painful for the woman and increases the possibility of infection. For those reasons, the device has not achieved widespread use, Blumenthal said.

The latest device is “unbelievably simple” and will likely improve access to birth control for women in the developing world, he said:

This could be a way to mainstream this approach, particularly for women in rural areas or those who have difficulty accessing family planning methods once they’ve given birth. It might be hard for them to access a method, so a post-partum IUD offers them one-stop-shopping. They go home with a method that could last them for 10 to 12 years.

The device can be manufactured in India for just 75 cents, “which is a pretty good deal,” Blumenthal said.

“Saving Lives at Birth” is a partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the governments of Norway and Canada and the U.K.’s Department for International Development.

Previously: Stanford study: Women in developing world benefit from quick, effective cervical cancer testPromoting the use of IUDs in the developing worldStanford ob-gyn Paul Blumenthal discusses advancing women’s health in developing countries and Gates Foundation grants aim to improve health in developing countries

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