Compared to other forms of birth control, copper IUDs can be a good alternative. After all, they don’t come with the nasty side effects that hormonal birth control methods have. But copper IUDs do have a side effect that’s not very well known: bacterial vaginosis. And if you use this form of birth control, you should know about this risk.
The pros and cons of copper IUDs
The good thing about using copper IUDs is that your body maintains its own hormone balance and even ovulates. Hormonal birth controls interfere with both of these reproductive processes, while also giving women nasty side effects like depression, hair loss and weight gain.
So, copper IUDs seem like a much better alternative. But they don’t get off scotch free. That’s because they can effect the vaginal microbiome in a negative way.
Copper IUDs disrupt vaginal microbiome
What’s the vaginal microbiome? Lara Biden, N.D., explains that it’s the natural balance of good bacteria mostly made up of the genus Lactobacillus. This microbiome helps to protect against yeast infection, viruses, and bad bacteria.
But if this delicate balance is disturbed and there’s an overgrown of the normal bacteria, bacterial vaginosis can develop, leading to smelly, watery discharge. This condition also increases your risk for other infections.
It’s a common condition, however, what isn’t commonly known is the scientific evidence linking copper IUDs to bacterial vaginosis.
Copper IUDs and bacterial vaginosis
Researchers confirmed this connection last summer in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in a study called, “Impact of contraceptive initiation on vaginal microbiota.”
The researchers found that the use of copper IUDs resulted “in increased prevalence of bacterial vaginosis.” In fact, they can double a woman’s risk for this condition. And this may be caused by the heavier periods copper IUD users tend to experience. This in turn, wipes out the good bacteria and allows for the overgrowth of other bacterias associated with bacterial vaginosis.