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Progestasert is a plastic, T-shaped intrauterine device, commonly known as an IUD, inserted in the female body to prevent pregnancy. The device, which became available in 1976, is one of two IUDs approved for use in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Its vertical stem contains progesterone, which is slowly released over a 12-month period. Once the year elapses, the Progestasert must be removed and replaced to continue to prevent conception. Two monofilament threads attached to this stem hang down into the vagina. They show the Progestasert is in place and are used to remove the device.
Progestasert is a very effective way to prevent pregnancy, with a success rate of roughly 99 percent, although it is slightly less effective than the other approved IUD, ParaGuard.
Progestasert is inserted in the uterus via the cervical opening. The progesterone in its stem enters the body, artificially elevating levels of this hormone. The female body naturally emits progesterone after an ovary releases the egg during the menstrual cycle, signalling that no more eggs should be released as pregnancy could occur. However, when the body already has elevated progesterone levels, the ovaries mistakenly believe an egg must have already been released. When the body is not releasing eggs, pregnancy cannot occur. In addition, the progesterone impacts the uterine lining, making it inhospitable for an egg.
Once inserted, Progestasert needs little attention until its supply of progesterone runs out. The user and any partners she has cannot feel the device in place, so it does not impact sex or other daily activities. As only a small amount of progesterone is released at a time, women who cannot use other hormonal contraceptives often find they tolerate Progestasert. The device also makes periods lighter, which is a great benefit for many women.
However, women using Progestasert have a higher risk of ectopic pregnancies than women using other contraceptives, including the other approved IUD, ParaGuard. Every time a new IUD is inserted, there is always a small chance bacteria from the vagina may enter the uterus. Since Progestasert should be replaced each year, compared to every decade for Paraguard, it is also a bit riskier than the alternative IUD.
Once the supply of progesterone has elapsed, women have the opportunity to replace their IUD or remove it. Fertility returns immediately after removal, which can be attractive to women who know they want to fall pregnancy at some time in future.
While Progestasert is an effective way to prevent pregnancy, it does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections. In fact, a woman using Progestasert has a higher risk of contracting pelvic inflammatory disease. That’s why it’s vital that any woman using Progestasert who isn’t in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a disease-free partner also use condoms. Progestasert isn’t recommended for women who regularly change sexual partners, have non-monogamous partners, or who have had pelvic inflammatory disease since their last pregnancies. Some health practitioners also suggest women with AIDS, leukemia, or other conditions making them vulnerable to infections use alternative birth control.
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