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Lena Chen, Harvard senior and author of the popular blog “Sex and the Ivy,” knows she will be baby-free til 2014. Is she psychic? Celibate? Nope. She has a brand new baby-fighting friend in her uterus.

To rephrase, Chen recently opted for an IUD as her chosen method of contraception. IUDs, or intrauterine devices, are T-shaped pieces of copper (ParaGard brand) or progesterone-containing plastic (Mirena brand) inserted into one’s uterus. They reduce the chance of becoming pregnant to less than 1 percent — more effective than typical use statistics for oral contraceptives or condoms, and about the same as getting your tubes tied, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. IUDs, depending on the type, prevent conception for 5-12 years. Now that’s my kind of birth control. (Full disclosure: No, really, it’s my kind of birth control.)

Chen cited several reasons for switching to an IUD: “The Pill was having a really negative effect on my sex drive and made it harder for my body to respond sexually,” she told me. “I didn’t want to get yet another prescription which may or may not work.” The Mirena contains a much lower dose of hormone and has fewer systemic effects.

Don’t get me wrong, all contraceptives have their downsides — after all, you’re altering your body’s functioning on a pretty major level. However, while the CDC gives a laundry list of side effects for combination birth control pills (from dizziness and nausea to mood changes and weight gain), the risks mentioned for IUDs are more local — namely, cramps and bleeding. Rarely, though, complications can occur during insertion, so it’s wise to choose an experienced clinician.

Chen backed up her decision in another way — economically. At Penn, students can purchase generic birth control pills for $15 per pack, adding up to $900 over five years. Chen’s insurance paid for her IUD and the insertion process. Without insurance, Planned Parenthood (Penn’s Student Health Service doesn’t insert IUDs) charges between $175 and $650 on a sliding scale. Chen added, “I also didn’t want to worry about paying for and picking up birth control all the time.” Many can sympathize with that sentiment. Our lives are busy enough.

I chose the Mirena for similar reasons. The Pill turned me into the kind of girl who cried at insurance commercials (“That boy … his dad … the beach … it’s all so sad!”) and hated her reproductive system for its overall spitefulness. My two months of NuvaRing consisted of a couch, the fetal position, and the first three seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. Twice. Tearfully. With my Mirena (nicknamed Skynet … yes, it terminates, and yes, I’m a dork), I just don’t have to worry about it. Paid for, put in, no babies for me. Like a lot of Penn women I know, it’s a huge load off my mind. Insertion sucks — “It hurt like hell!” Chen says, and I agree — but hey, life is pain, Princess.

To be honest, I hesitated before writing this column. When it comes down to it, I’m not so sure that my friends, family and professors need to know about my uterine decorations. But surprisingly, the IUD is the most widely-used contraceptive method in the world — for example, about 36 percent of married Chinese women have one. I write this with the aim of disseminating valuable, sometimes-overlooked information.

The IUD isn’t a universal solution. And it doesn’t protect against STDs, of course, so condoms are a must with any new partner. But if you’d like to avoid having little yous running everywhere, you might want to hop over to Women’s Health, talk to someone with an advanced degree and consider the Mirena (effective for five years, period-reducing) or the ParaGard (effective for up to 12 years, nonhormonal) as a candidate for your uterus’s next guest. Learn the details, weigh your options and make an educated decision.

Lindsey Stull is a College senior from Oklahoma City, Okla. Her e-mail address is

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