Utility and drawbacks of continuous use of a copper T IUD for 20 years

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Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



This article examines interrelated questions concerning the extent of need for contraception in women 40 years and older and the degree to which that need can be served when use of collared T IUDs is initiated in women aged 25-35 years. Differentials in the impacts of intrauterine device (IUD) use on health issues in the second decade of contraception are also addressed. Although fertility of all women aged 40-44 years is below 100 per 1000 in all regions of the world today, the risk of pregnancy among married or cohabiting women who do not use contraception is estimated at 270-300 per 1000 or 27-30% per year. At ages 45-49 years, the annual risk of pregnancy to women in union who do not use contraception lies at or above 10% per year. Data from three studies show that users of collared copper IUDs who continued using the same device beyond the completion of 10 years experienced no pregnancies through the end of 15 years. A small number of women continued with the same IUD through 20 years and still experienced no pregnancies. Use of collared copper T IUDs beyond 10 years was not associated with intensification of side effects nor with an increase in the relative frequency of those effects, with the exception of the experience of perimenopausal symptoms and problems. Neither increased bleeding nor increased severity of pelvic disease was manifest in the second decade of continuous use of the same IUD, as compared with the first decade of such use. Under our current understanding of the duration of IUD effectiveness, only a small percentage of women complete 10 years of use. Even with revised understanding of the duration of effectiveness of long-acting copper devices, average annual continuation rates must be quite high in order that 20% of women aged 25-35 years initiate a second decade of continuous IUD use. Those who do so would find considerable protection against pregnancy and reasonable economic benefits in continuing to use the same device.