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New device improves contraceptive options for women in the developing world

Many women in the developing world say they don’t want to get pregnant in the 18 months after childbirth, but they don’t have access to family planning services. Now a Stanford researcher has invented a new, low-cost option for these women that would enable them to obtain long-term contraception just after delivery.

The device consists of a long, thin inserter which can be easily used to place the IUD in the uterus in the hours after a woman has given birth. This is an optimal time for IUD placement as the cervix is open so it’s more comfortable for the woman and has fewer side-effects than a procedure done weeks later, says Paul Blumenthal, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology who created the device.

“The postpartum period is underutilized by women as a time to start their next method of contraception,” Blumenthal told me. “It’s important for women to space births, but many give birth and never come back for family planning. Then the next time we see them, they are pregnant again, very often with a pregnancy that was unplanned.”

Blumenthal and his colleagues from Population Services International tested the IUD inserter in 80 women in India, who said the process was relatively painless, compared to childbirth. The IUD's were installed by trained caregivers, who reported that the procedure was relatively easy to do.

The researchers now are testing the device in a much larger group of women, comparing it to the more conventional method that involves use of forceps to insert the IUD. Forceps are not only costly - as much as $100 apiece - but can also be problematic when used in developing countries, as they carry a risk of infection if not properly sterilized. In using forceps, clinicians may also damage the IUD by squeezing it too tightly, Blumenthal says.

The new device costs about $1, making it an affordable option, he says. He and his colleagues have been working with a company in India that is very keen on marketing the new device.

A report on the pilot study with the IUD inserter appears online in the latest issue of Global Health Science and Practice.

Previously: Stanford and PSI researchers test safer, more convenient post-partum IUD inserter and Promoting the use of IUDs in the developing world
Photo courtesy of Population Services International (PSI)

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