Contraceptives can take a variety of forms, including hormonal medication, barrier contraceptives (such as condoms), implants and more.
A popular method of temporary contraception among women is the Intrauterine device, or IUD, which may be hormonal or non-hormonal. In Australia, the hormone-releasing IUD available is called Mirena™.
Mirena™ is a T-shaped device that is placed into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It works by slowly releasing a progestin hormone into your uterus, which help create an environment that’s unsuitable for fertilisation to occur.
Reasons why Mirena™ is an attractive choice for many women include:
- It’s designed to stay in place for 5 years, making it a long-term solution
- It is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy
- After it’s removed, your fertility will go back to normal within a month
- You don’t have to remember to take a pill every day
- It only costs around $40 (plus the cost of your medical visits to insert and remove it)
But the benefits don’t stop there. Did you know that an IUD can also help treat other gynaecological conditions too?
Let’s look three non-contraceptive benefits of using Mirena™.
Mirena™ can help relieve heavy and painful periods
Mirena™ has been found an effective nonsurgical alternative in treatment of heavy bleeding (menorrhagia). It’s estimated that around ⅓ of women will experience heavy bleeding in their life.
Signs of heavy bleeding include:
- If you soak through a tampon every 2 to 3 hours
- If you have to wear both a tampon and pad for extra protection
- If you have to get up during the night to change your tampon or pad
- If you stain your clothes or sheets as a result of a heavy period or passing clots
Mirena™ has been shown to provide such impressive symptom control for women with heavy periods, it’s considered a comparable option to surgery to manage heavy bleeding.
In a clinical trial of Mirena™ in women with heavy periods, the majority of women reported an 80% reduction in bleeding after just 4 months of inserting the device. What’s more, that reduction in bleeding progressed to 95% within 2 years of using the Mirena™.
Mirena™ can help ease endometriosis pain
Although Mirena™ has been used as a contraceptive since the 1990s, in recent years gynaecologists have begun investigating its possible use for the treatment of endometriosis.
Hormonal therapies aim to reduce the pain of endometriosis by suppressing the growth of endometrial cells, as well as reducing bleeding. Considering that oestrogen helps the growth of endometrial tissue, hormonal contraceptives such as the Mirena™ can help suppress this tissue growth by providing a progestin predominant environment.
Studies have found that progestins (such as those used in Mirena™) have been proven to provide pain relief for 3 out of 4 women with endometriosis. So if you suffer from endometriosis, the Mirena™ is something to consider speaking to your gynaecologist about.
Mirena™ can help prevent some gynaecological cancers
Research has shown that using an IUD can prevent the uterine lining from building up, which in turn can stop abnormal cells from developing.
In some cases, the IUD can even lead to a reversal of abnormal cell growth, making it a potential treatment for early stage endometrial cancer.
This is potentially great news for women who are considered high-risk surgical candidates due to obesity or cardiovascular risk factors.
Additionally, women who cannot take oestrogen (such as breast cancer survivors or those that suffer from migraines) may consider using a progestin-releasing IUD such as Mirena™ for contraception.
That being said, the relationship between IUDs and breast cancer is not definitively clear, so it’s important to discuss your case with your gynaecologist to weigh the risks and benefits of an IUD if you have a history of breast cancer.
Where to get more information
The Mirena™ is not suitable for everyone. That’s why it’s important to speak with a gynaecologist when considering this option for yourself.
Northside Gynaecology is an all-female, Brisbane-based women’s health practice. If you’d like to discuss using Mirena™ to manage a gynaecological condition, we’re here to guide and support you.