Why An IUD is the Best Birth Control for Travelers

Do you ever discover something and then seriously kick yourself for not knowing about it earlier? I’ve felt like that about many things: Breaking Bad, stand up paddle boarding and Sri Lankan food for starters. And now I feel this way about my IUD.

IUDs are having a bit of a moment now, thanks to all the BS surrounding health insurance in the US. Many doctors are recommending patients get one now, while birth control is still covered under Obamacare, because they will last you well into the next presidential administration (please god).

Personally, I’m sold. I had one put in post-baby (some might argue babies themselves are great birth control) and it’s been the best birth control experience I’ve had in my adult life. Mainly because I don’t have to do anything.

Why didn’t I have one of these years ago? It’s such an elegant simple birth control solution that would have been so perfect during my years on the road.  Worrying about the reliability of your birth control while traveling is a total pain. I spent years struggling to remember to take my birth control pill, looking for the right brand in foreign countries, calculating the right time of day through so many time zones etc. etc.

Of course, everyone has different bodies with different needs and no form of birth control is perfect for everyone. And it’s best suited for people in long-term relationships, or as a backup method along with a condom, as an IUD isn’t going to do anything to protect you from STDs. But here is why I think you should at least consider getting an IUD before you go long-term traveling:


It’s Travel-Proof

Forget something?

I’m amazed there aren’t more accidental travel pregnancies (or maybe there are and nobody is owning up?). Remembering to take the pill while traveling can be really, really hard. Travel destroys your usual routine, basically by design, and there is nothing more routine than taking a pill at the same time every day. I can’t count how many times I’ve been halfway up a mountain, mid-flight or far off on a day trip somewhere, only to realize I never took my medication.

With an IUD there is nothing to mess up because there is nothing to remember. It’s completely fool-proof, which makes it the most dependable form of birth control. You just go about your life, secure in the knowledge your ladybits are safe and secure. It’s so freeing.

It Lasts for Years

Not going to buy any birth control here…

Running out of birth control pills on the road is basically a nightmare. In the United States, you need a prescription for birth control, which requires having a doctor that you see on at least an annual basis. This isn’t always possible if you’re abroad for months or years at a time.

So, you can carry around a year’s supply of birth control pills (assuming your doctor and your insurance will allow that), and hope they don’t get lost of waterlogged. Or, you can dip your toe into the foreign birth control market.

Many other countries do sell birth control pills over the counter, which is nice, but the brand names and formulations are usually different. You have to figure out the equivalent medication in a foreign language, and sometimes there is trial and error involved. You might need to try a new pill completely and deal with all the potential side effects of a new hormonal cocktail. It can feel a little fast and loose when your fertility is on the line.

Depending on what IUD you get, they can last for 3,5, or even 10 years. That’s a long time not to have to worry about prescriptions and pills.

You Might Stop Having a Period

Having your period while camping is the literal worst.

Even more annoying than taking birth control on the road is having your period. Dealing with sanitary issues coupled with long bus rides, questionable bathrooms, and athletic activities are just a pain in the butt. Plus, finding tampons in a lot of foreign countries is next to impossible. Diva cups can make things easier, but it’s still something you have to think about and plan for.

Depending on what IUD you get, you might get to skip the whole ordeal altogether.  90% of women on hormonal IUDs experience lighter periods and many stop menstruating altogether (Although some people on the copper IUD experience heavier periods so factor that in your decision).

These three things make the IUD a great birth control choice for anyone who is backpacking, traveling or living abroad for long periods of time. It takes the focus off your reproductive system and allows you to live in the moment and enjoy your travels without hassle.

Have you used an IUD while traveling? Why or why not?


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