Do you know what an IUD is? Many don’t

(CNN)On the very first episode of the MTV reality series “Teen Mom,” back in 2009, the cameras were rolling as Catelynn, one of the girls on the show, talked to her doctor about birth control. She made the decision to get a Mirena intrauterine device, known as an IUD; it’s more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy and lasts for five years.

Those facts are part of a concerted effort by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, working in conjunction with entertainment outlets such as MTV, to educate teens and young women about the range of birth control methods available to them.


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But judging by the results of a new survey by the Urban Institute, far too many women still don’t know anything about the so-called longer-acting reversible contraceptives, the IUD and the implant, which are more effective at preventing pregnancy than birth control pill and condoms.


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They learned that calling these methods “long-acting reversible contraceptives” didn’t resonate with the young women because they were concerned about the permanence of the methods, said Ehrlich. Talking about them as “low-maintenance methods” or “party-ready methods” for certain audiences seemed to resonate better, she said.
Playing up how users don’t have to think about these methods — since they are effective for years and are not visible to anyone — can also be effective in making women more comfortable with them, Ehrlich and her team learned from their interviews.
“We’ve come up with some ads to show that if someone has an implant, you can’t see it … so we’ve kind of integrated the insights into how we talk about those methods,” she said.
The Affordable Care Act might also lead to more awareness of IUDs and implants. As more women who are uninsured obtain health care coverage, they may be more likely to visit an OB/GYN and have conversations about birth control options, said Shartzer, of the Urban Institute.
“As people gain health insurance coverage and preventive care is covered to a greater extent, people may be more connected to a health care system, but that can take a while,” she said.
The teen birth rate has hit historic lows and the number of unplanned pregnancies dropped for the first time in decades, from 51% of all pregnancies between 2006 to 2010 to 45% between 2009 and 2013, according to a study this year.


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Still, the age group with the highest rate of unplanned pregnancies is 20- to 24-year-olds.
Raising awareness about the most effective methods available to these young women is key to reducing unplanned pregnancy, experts say. So is respecting that IUDs and implants, while more effective than any birth control method beyond sterilization, may not be for the right fit for all women.
“We believe strongly that every woman should be able to choose the method of contraception she thinks is best for her, and so while (the IUD and implant) are incredibly reliable and effective, they may not be for everyone,” Ehrlich said. “That’s something we have to be very careful about as well.”

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