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December 4, 2009 / Brittany Hendrick

Couldn’t ever figure out how you got pregnant while on birth control? Well, Bayer can’t figure out how you DON’T.

An ad in a magazine I was reading today caught my eye.

It’s a picture of a toddler girl with a mess of food around her mouth, with a look on her face that says, “Well, bitch? Are gonna wipe my ass, or what?”

I let out a chuckle when the copy revealed it’s an ad for birth control. The byline reads:

Because you’re wiped out, you need birth control that helps simplify your life.

An image supposing that, someday, you, too, may be the accidental proud owner of a slovenly beast lovely creature– just when you thought you were finished “enhancing” your life– is birth control enough.


For some reason, I decided to read more about this product. It’s an IUD called Mirena (“Keep life simple.”), manufactured by Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Of course, I already knew what an IUD is and what it looks like, but I’d never used one, never considered it as an option. I never bothered to research how an IUD actually functions. Its mechanics piqued my curiosity. You stick this plastic T in your uterus and… then what?

On the backside of the ad page is the fine-print FAQ.

What is Mirena?
Mirena is a hormone releasing system… blahblahblah.

OK, hormones, like the Pill. Makes sense.

How well does Mirena work?
The following chart… blahblahblah.

Nice chart depicting Mirena’s effectiveness (Over 99%. Sweet.) versus other birth control methods.

How does Mirena work?
It is not known exactly how Mirena works.

What? This was hilarious to me. How can a product be developed and sold without anyone knowing how it works?

Mirena may work in several ways.

Right, but could we trouble a scientist to determine which way?

It may thicken your cervical mucus, thin the lining of your uterus, inhibit sperm movement and reduce sperm survival.

No one knows for sure? Really?

Mirena may stop release of your egg from your ovary, but this is not the way it works in most cases.

Gee, “may” it cure cancer, too? “We don’t know how Mirena works, but it may do this even though we know it really won’t.” How was this deduced if we don’t know exactly what else Mirena does in the first place? What control group is comparable?

Most likely, these actions work together to prevent pregnancy.

No shit. Scientific Method, anyone?

As usual, this drives me to research IUDs further. Basically, there are two types of IUDs: copper-based and hormone-based. A copper-based IUD is straightforwardly effective– it literally contains copper wire that releases compounds which are hostile to sperm and eggs. A natural spermicide (by way of Cu), if you will. A hormone-based IUD releases levonorgestrel. And while the effects listed above “may” occur, according to Mirena’s website, there is “no single explanation” on how the hormone affects the reproductive system as far as satisfying contraception.

Now, how can that be? How can we lack experimental data? I don’t think these data are truly absent…

Mirena “may” thin the lining of the uterus (endometrium), which “may” inhibit embryo implantation.  Basically, fertilization “may” occur, but the environment which supports implantation of a fertilized egg “may” be disrupted. A snag in isolating Mirena’s effect to this is that some pro-life organizations consider fertilization the start of pregnancy. Therefore, these groups view IUDs as an abortifacient. Hence Bayer must preact with “Oh yeah, let’s throw in a bunch of other shit that Mirena ‘may’ do, because those effects have been proven definitely in other widely accepted contraceptives. So, Mirena qualifies. So, there.”

Therefore, I think Bayer knows precisely how Mirena works but purposely muddles the scientific– or public– data in order to keep pro-lifers off their back. I guess pro-lifers don’t like the idea of homeless embryos holding up signs that say “Will burst for food.”

What about Mirena stopping the release of an egg altogether? Smells like a red herring. And I love it. I don’t have a problem with Bayer’s strategy, if that’s indeed it. I’d wager that Mirena solely functions by reducing endometrial thickness thus preventing pregnancy. Now, that’s simple.


One Comment

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  1. Nic / Dec 4 2009 8:35 am

    Ha! I love reading your stuff!


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