the ballerine: a brand new IUD that won’t stab you in the womb, apparently

If you have a uterus but very much don’t want to get pregnant, chances are that you’re on some form of contraception to ward away the offspring. There’s a delightful pick-n-mix of different types of contraception to choose from. Most contraception is hormonal, and therefore bring with them all sorts of unwanted and unpleasant side effects such as mood swings, weight gain, acne, and tender breasts. Non-hormonal options are fairly limited in comparison, with one of the most popular choices being the copper IUD coil, which provides 99% effective protection for up to 5 or 10 years. The Ballerine, or IUB, is the newest addition to these non-hormonal ranks. It’s been tested since 2013, and is currently all the rage, with over 60,000 women in 21 countries currently using it.

What is it?

While the copper IUD is T-shaped, the Ballerine is (surprisingly) ball-shaped. It’s made up of copper pearls (17, to be precise) threaded on a shape memory alloy called Nitinol, which is inserted into the uterus via a tube, with the ball forming as it emerges. The metal frame essentially “remembers” the shape it should form inside the uterus, coiling itself up into a ball. This design is unique in its use in contraceptives, and is intended to fit neatly into the shape of the uterus, and as a result, minimise risks of damage and irritation. Insertion of the copper coil IUD can sometimes result in perforation of the uterus, a nasty accident which requires an operation to fix. With fewer sharp points that could accidentally poke you in your uterus walls, it’s thought that inserting the IUB is less likely to result in a perforation (however, this is yet to be formally scientifically tested)

small but mighty

The IUB comes in three different sizes, ranging between 12mm to 18mm in diameter. The copper IUD coil is 32 mm x 36 mm, so the IUB is clearly a lot smaller even at its largest option. It’s still large enough that it won’t be immediately yeeted (sorry) out of the cervix, however, and has two strings attached that dangle just out of the cervix for easy removal.

How does it work?

The IUB works in the same way that the IUD does, with the copper beads (rather than the coil forming the base of the T) releasing a small and safe amount copper ions, providing protection at a success rate of 99% for up to five years. The copper ions interfere with many of the processes involved in getting pregnant, including sperm mobility, fertilisation, and egg implantation on the uterus wall. Snowflake sperm can’t even hack a bit of copper, pathetic.

balls to the (uterus) wall

So, is it worth getting the IUB instead the IUD?

The Lowdown, a website that acts as a platform for women and other uterus owners to review different types of contraception and report any negative side effects, recently posted in response to questions from followers regarding the IUB. They reference a clinical trial done by the manufacturers of the Ballerine that compares the experience of 367 subjects using either the IUD or the IUB. The results of this study shows that there was no significant difference in expulsion rate or pregnancy rate between the two devices, nor any real differences in bleeding period and intensity. However, there was one area where the IUD and IUB did differ significantly; the IUB users reported experiencing a significantly greater proportion of improvement in their pain and cramps experienced.

if the ‘p’-value is less than 0.05, it means that the difference between the two bars is statistically significant. here, this is seen only for pain and cramps

So, the science seems to say that the Ballerine could lead to less cramping and pain than its ugly sister IUD. However, this study was done by the manufacturers of the product, so we must always be wary of bias when drawing any conclusions. The study also hasn’t been published in a peer reviewed scientific journal yet, which essentially means that the authors could write any old bollocks and get away with it. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, though.

How do I get one?

According to the Lowdown, the Ballerine was only approved by the NHS on the 1st of September 2019, so very few GP surgeries offer it at this moment in time. If you’re in the UK, you may be near to one of the surgeries listed by the Lowdown as places to obtain the Ballerine here. You’re in luck if you live in West London it seems! Otherwise, you may have to wait until 2020, unless you can convince your GP to learn how to insert it at lightning speed.

If you’re in the USA, however, you most likely won’t be able to access the IUB for at least 5 years. The US classifies intrauterine devices as drugs rather than medical devices like Europe does, and the FDA requires a much longer and more difficult registration process for these “drugs” – namely a 3-5 year study. Yee haw, I guess.

Contraception is a massively personal choice varies from uterus to uterus depending on many factors. Whether or not you think the IUB is the right fit for you, you are now more informed about the pros and cons of the new IUD on the block. Choose wisely!

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