The history of birth control can be traced back to thousands of years ago. Ancient Egyptians created linens to protect against sexually transmitted infections and spermicide made from acacia, dates, and honey to prevent pregnancy (Youssef 1993, p. 226). The first recorded use of an intrauterine contraceptive described Arab and Turkish nomadic travelers using hollowed tubes to insert smooth stones into the uteri of camels to prevent pregnancy on long desert trips (Tone 2001, p. 59).
The IUD continued to develop and improve with a series of silkworm, silver, rubber, syringes, and in the 1960s, plastic devices (FPA 2010, p. 2). Interestingly, not a single IUD in history has been designed by a woman. Designers did not care much about female anatomy when designing IUDs until Jack Lippes introduced the Lippes Loop in 1962. This S-shaped plastic device soon became one of the most popular IUDs in the 1960s (Vernasco & Millikan 2015).
The Dalkon Shield was removed from the market in the 1980s (Tone 2001, p. 261), thus the IUD lost popularity, as women began turning to the hormonal birth control pill as the favored option. The copper IUD was not introduced back into the market until 1988, yet with scarce popularity (Engle 2017).
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studied the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), which includes the IUD, finding that 11% of women ages 25-34 use LARCs (Branum & Jones 2015) and after the 2016 election results, more women than ever are opting into the IUD as a long-acting reversible contraceptive. To learn more about LARCs, check out our interview with National Women’s Health Network’s Executive Director, Cindy Pearson.
It was not until the late 19th century that a “cervico-uterine stem” was developed out of a rubber, glass, or metal with a small button or cup attached that was inserted into the cervix (Tone 2001, p. 59).
The Comstock Act of 1872, prohibiting the dissemination of immoral and obscene materials, including effectively outlawing the manufacturing of contraceptives (ibid., p. 4), did not affect the distribution of IUDs, although many doctors disapproved of the contraceptive and would only insert them in the case of “legitimate medical need” (ibid., p. 59).
By 1971, twelve million women around the world were wearing IUDs. However, in 1974, the most popular IUD of the time, the Dalkon Shield, was reported to be dangerous, allowing bacteria into the uterus, and was allegedly fatal (Tone 2001, p. 261).
It is only in 2001, with the introduction of the hormonal IUD Mirena, that IUDs have regained their popularity.
As you will learn, Mirena is not for everyone and our goal is to increase attainable information on the Mirena to ultimately continue to empower women through contraceptive education. We believe every woman should have control over her own body and hope this website will act as resource to help you decide if the Mirena IUD is right for you.
Brannum, Amy and Jo Jones. 2015. “Trends in Long-Acting Reversible Contraception Use Among U.S. Women Aged 15–44.” 188. NCHS Data Brief. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db188.pdf
Engle, Gigi. 2017. “When Did IUDs Become Popular? What To Know About The History Of The Intrauterine Device.” Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/p/when-did-iuds-become-popular-what-to-know-about-the-history-of-the-intrauterine-device-47745
FPA. 2010. “Contraception: past, present, and future factsheet.” https://www.fpa.org.uk/sites/default/files/contraception-past-present-and-future-factsheet-november-2010.pdf
Tone, Andrea. 2001. Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America.
Vernasco, Lucy and Arikia Millikan. 2015. “The IUD’s Long Path to Redemption.” Motherboard. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/z4m54e/the-iuds-long-path-to-redemption
Youssef, H. 1993. “The history of the condom.” In Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1293956/pdf/jrsocmed00099-0056.pdf