By: Diana Barnes-Brown
While many women have already realized the convenience and effectiveness of using intrauterine devices (IUDs) as a birth control method, new research has suggested that a certain type of these birth control devices can double as a treatment for excessively heavy periods, or menorrhagia.
The specific IUD that was studied, known by the brand name Mirena, was previously approved by the FDA as an safe, reversible form of long-term birth control, and now has been found to have an effect on the duration and intensity of women’s periods.
Researchers in Finland are responsible for the findings, which are published in the December, 2004 Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Ilkka Rauramo and colleagues at the Finnish Medical Society Duodecim in Helsinki conducted the study.
The researchers compared the results of endometrial ablation – or surgical removal of the uterine lining – with use of Mirena in a group of 59 women who suffered from disruptively or abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding.
They compared the 19 out of 30 patients who were treated with Mirena and completed the 3-year follow-up necessary for study participation, and 22 out of 29 patients who had undergone endometrial surgery and completed the follow-up period, and found that in both groups, the amount of bleeding during periods had been drastically reduced.
The women indicated blood loss by recording use of menstrual products like pads and tampons, as well as looking at pictorial charts to show the amount of perceived soiling.
While removal of the endometrium, which can be done as a minimally invasive procedure, is a big advance from prior treatments for menorrhagia – which included dilation and curettage (D&C), hormone treatments, and sometimes even hysterectomy – insertion of Mirena is even simpler and less likely to cause negative after effects in eligible candidates.
The findings, they can be replicated with a larger number of patients and thus become generalizable, will represent a big step in treating menorrhagia. On the basis of our data and the literature, strong evidence exists to suggest [the Mirena IUD] should be considered the first-line treatment,” noted Rauramo’s team. The device “is easy to insert, has a sustained effect, provides contraception, may reduce the need for surgery, and is cost-effective and well tolerated,” they concluded.
Mirena is a small plastic device containing trace amounts of reproductive hormone levonorgestrel, prevents pregnancy by thinning the lining of the uterus, thickening cervical mucus to provide an additional barrier against sperm, and interfering with the movement of sperm that does enter the uterus.
Research from Mirena’s maker, Berlex, shows the device to be 99.9 percent dependable if properly inserted. The device’s effects last for five years, and it can be inserted into the uterus by a doctor in just a few minutes. It is important to note, however, that Mirena is not capable of preventing infection with HIV or other STDs, and that barrier methods such as condoms and dental dams are still the only recommended way to practice safer sex.
Source: Obstetrics and Gynecology, December 2004; http://www.mirena-us.com/