21 April, 2005
Are there any halachic issues with using an IUD?
The main drawback to IUD use by women who keep the laws of niddah is that this method is likely to cause extra bleeding. This can either be heavier menses or irregular bleeding. Heavy menses result in additional days of staining before a woman can do a hefsek taharah. Irregular bleeding can cancel out the blood-free days that she has counted so far, leading to prolonged periods of being a niddah, or can make her a niddah again soon after she has immersed in the mikveh.
The exact mechanism of the IUD is still not completely understood. The more recently accepted theory is that at least the copper-containing IUD's prevent fertilization by creating an environment that kills the sperm. This is due to the reaction of the uterus to a foreign body, and prevents living sperm from reaching the fallopian tubes where fertilization takes place. The older theory is that the IUD prevents implantation, i.e., the sperm and ovum unite and begin dividing but the resulting embryo does not become embedded in the uterine lining. This earlier theory is also accurate, but appears to account for only a small minority (about 1%) of cases.
The different theories have implications for the halachic desirability of this form of contraception. If the IUD primarily prevents fertilization by killing sperm, then it presents few halachic problems in a situation where contraception itself is permissible. On the other hand, if the IUD prevents implantation of the fertilized ovum, then the more serious issue of abortion is raised. Many rabbis still consider the IUD to be the method of birth control second in line after hormonal contraception, although controversy does exist.
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