Two weeks ago, Hump Day previewed the release of the new intrauterine device Skyla. I promise to get back to the sexy stuff next time readers, but first, here is an important question from a fellow Badger.
I read your column a couple weeks ago about the new IUD called Sklya. I am very confused. I got the Mirena IUD three years ago during my freshman year, but I have never been pregnant before. My doctor never said anything about needing to have had children to get the Mirena. Why am I now hearing news that Skyla is meant for women who have never given birth and Mirena is only for women who have? Do I need to get my IUD removed? Help!
Good question! Skyla just hit the market and there are still some unanswered questions. Most of the concern over Skyla comes from young women, like yourself, who already have Skyla’s older sister Mirena snuggly sitting in their uteri and are wondering, “WTF?? Why is Mirena now only for women with kids?!”
Here’s how the story goes. There used to only be two kinds of IUDs on the market from two different companies: the hormonal IUD called Mirena from Bayer and the ParaGard “Copper T” IUD from Teva Pharmaceuticals that does not contain hormones. A side-by-side comparison of these devices reveals pros and cons for both, although one thing they shared was being available for women who had never been pregnant before.
Fast forward a couple years and, all of a sudden, Mirena is being re-branded as “recommended for women who have had a child.” In retrospect, this may have been in anticipation of Bayer’s future release of Skyla. The public got a whole slew of commercials featuring women frolicking in autumn leaves in the middle of suburban spring with their two-kids-is-fine-for-now attitudes. This didn’t pick up much attention from childless women who had Mirena inserted before the new recommendations, and many doctors still continued to stick Mirenas into women without children at persistent requests.
Since 2013 started with a media frenzy surrounding Skyla, young women’s ears are doing double takes. To differentiate their new product from the previous Mirena, the older counterpart is now officially labeled as the one for women WITH children and Skyla for those WITHOUT.
You can imagine the freak outs this relabeling caused – women without children who have had Mirena in them for some time are just now learning that it is not meant for them. This can be particularly alarming considering the tumultuous history of IUDs, namely how perceptions of IUDs changed in the wake of the rudimentary death star Dalkon Shield that caused uterine injuries and infertility in many women. It took the IUD market 40 years to recover from that PR nightmare, and Bayer doesn’t seem to be helping the situation.
So first, relax. If you have not had children but are using Mirena, you do not need to get it removed or switch over to Skyla. Unless, of course, you are experiencing adverse effects, in which case you should speak with your doctor.
There are many possible reasons for the product switcheroo, and here are the three most likely motivations Bayer had for creating Skyla.
1. Money. The more products a company can sell, the more money they can make. By slightly altering the directions on an already existing product, they have created a need in a population they can sell the perfect product to. Never mind the product was fine for everyone to use in the first place – it had been on the market for 10 years. And, hey, people need to be reminded they need birth control! Drug companies do this all the time. If this is a reason, though, I’m not a fan of any public relations scheme that hides behind the guise of empowering women with choices when they might actually be playing us for fools.
2. Rebranding. Mirena has actually been in the news quite a bit recently regarding safety concerns. Maybe Bayer is sensing the imminent fall of Mirena and using Skyla to problem-solve. Fact is, many women who use Mirena do not experience serious compications and hum along happily, forgetting many women do have problems with the product. But all it takes is a few publicized nightmare experiences to bring the demise of a product.
3. Innovation. Skyla’s new, slightly smaller design is likely to receive a joyful welcome from the tiny uteri of women who have not given birth that will benefit from the smoother, more comfortable insertion and placement. If this is the reason, it’s curious Bayer doesn’t just come clean with this explanation, as this would actually be a kind gesture.
Regardless of the motivations to create Skyla, we now have one more IUD out there, and I have to say IUDs are a pretty good option for contraception. IUDs last for years and you don’t have to remember to take a pill, replace a patch, change a ring or get a shot. Plus, they are super-duper effective. IUDs are pretty expensive up front – upwards of $1000 – but overtime are more cost-effective than paying for the pill every month. Just watch out for hidden costs! In my own IUD adventure, I discovered facility fees, lab charges and extra provider costs add up to at least $400 that insurance does not cover. Check with your health care provider or insurance company beforehand to avoid being slapped with a surprise bill.
Questions about IUDs or other topics you’d like our Hump Day columnists to answer? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.