It’s evident that contraception, when used correctly and consistently, helps women and couples avoid pregnancy until they’re ready to become parents. Contraception has helped millions of women (and men) stay in school, achieve personal and professional life goals, and plan for healthy pregnancies.
Now, a new contraceptive intrauterine system (IUS), Skyla, will be added to the array of options a woman can choose from to prevent pregnancy.
Skyla is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved hormonal IUS, like Mirena, but smaller. You could think of it as Mirena’s little sister—both developed by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals. Both release the progestin levonorgestrel and both are over 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. Unlike Mirena, Skyla contains less levonorgestrel and only lasts up to three years whereas Mirena lasts for five.
And, because Skyla is smaller, it can fit into the uterus of women who have not carried a pregnancy to term. This means that younger women, who are less likely to have given birth, have another contraceptive method to choose from.
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Historically, young women have relied on birth control pills for contraception, but many have become pregnant while using them. Pills, when used consistently and correctly, are 99 percent effective but are only 91 percent effective with typical use. Skyla and other IUDs are 99 percent effective and leave little room for user error.
Nearly 70 percent of pregnancies among young unmarried women in the United States are unplanned. Research shows that planned pregnancies are healthier for both mom and baby. Women with unplanned pregnancies are more likely to experience adverse pregnancy outcomes and have babies born prematurely or with low-birth weight, factors that can have a life-long impact on their health. Clearly, we need more contraceptive options and more effective methods.
As a highly effective method, Skyla could help a woman delay, space, or avoid pregnancy and, in so doing, achieve her reproductive and life goals. But, as with any contraceptive method, it’s not perfect and it may not be right for everyone. Observed side effects of the Skyla IUS include irregular bleeding, vaginal inflammation, abdominal pain, acne, ovarian cysts, headache, and nausea. Any woman interested in obtaining Skyla or understanding more about her personal risk for these side effects should consult her health care provider.
The price for Skyla, scheduled to become available mid-February, is not yet clear. Fortunately, some women will have this method covered with no co-pay under their health care insurance. However, some insurers could opt not to cover it and only cover similar methods such as ParaGard or Mirena instead. Women are encouraged to contact their insurance provider for specific cost and coverage information.
Despite some lingering questions, we’re glad to see that Skyla adds another option to the contraceptive method mix, giving young women and women without children more to choose from.