Viral TikToks about intrauterine devices (IUDs) tend to depict negative experiences more often than positive ones. recent research found, and often center on physical pain and distrust of doctors.
Some videos even include misinformation about birth control, according to the letter of inquirywhich was published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology earlier this month.
Researchers at Duke University used a web scraping application to download and compile the top 100 most viewed videos tagged #IUD on TikTok. They found that almost 38% had a negative tone compared to just 19% with a positive tone. Just under 28% mentioned distrust of health professionals, while about 24% contained “moderately or very inaccurate scientific claims,” according to the researchers.
The videos typically discussed IUD insertion and removal, with patients in the videos sometimes saying they were not offered enough pain relief or were experiencing negative side effects.
“Inevitably, a lot of negative videos tend to draw more attention to these apps, so I think there’s a lot of birth control negativity on TikTok,” said Jenny Wu, a Duke resident OB/GYN who helped conduct the research. . “That’s not to say it’s not a real experience because IUDs are pretty painful. It’s definitely an uphill battle when I feel like the algorithm doesn’t work in favor of positive videos towards this.”
IUDs are more than 99% effective in the prevention of pregnancy. The small T-shaped device, either the hormonal or copper version, is inserted through the opening of the cervix into the uterus. Depending on the type, an IUD can last between three and 12 years. During insertion, patients may experience discomfort, which may be severe in some cases.
The goal of the study, Wu said, was to help “health care professionals really know what’s out there online” so they can determine whether to adjust the ways they communicate with patients about IUD procedures. and pain management options.
Inevitably, a lot of negative videos tend to get more attention on these apps, so I think there’s a lot of birth control negativity on TikTok.
-Jenny Wu, study co-author
TikTok may be a resource for sharing information about reproductive health care, but it’s also packed with videos about users’ personal experiences with different types of birth control, many of which are negative. Although IUDs are effective, fears about pain during insertion prevail: a Cochrane study he described it as a “barrier” to adoption of the devices.
In one viral video posted earlier this year, for example, a TikTok user filmed his reaction during IUD insertion, describing the procedure as the “worst pain imaginable.” Another Tik Tok A demonstration of the tool doctors use to stabilize a patient’s cervix went viral this year, after which many TikTok users said they weren’t fully informed about how the insertion procedure worked before getting IUDs inserted. A user who responded to the video. disputed why you were not offered more options for pain management.
“It really makes me feel a certain way that there are so many women who are learning about the procedure they’ve already had through this app, and not through the doctors who gave them the IUD,” the user said in the response video. .
Wu, a TikTok user, said she sees how videos about negative IUD experiences can make patients wary.
“Watching someone put an IUD in and being in a lot of pain is an emotional experience that you feel for another person,” Wu said of the negative videos that tend to go viral on the platform. “It’s different from me, as a doctor, to tell them that it’s a good form of birth control.”
Pain thresholds vary from patient to patient, but in general, IUD procedures may cause more discomfort for people who have not delivered vaginally. Doctors usually instruct patients to take ibuprofen or other over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications beforehand.
Some doctors with followers on TikTok have posted videos what is discussed the possibility of administering local anesthesia or sedating patients for IUD insertion. And some patients request prescription anxiety medications like Valium or Ativan, according to Cosmopolitan. But scientific research on these interventions is inconclusiveand they come with their own risks and costs.
Wu said he perceives a “communication gap between health care providers and patients on this issue,” which can contribute to mistrust in the health care system.
She added that while the videos analyzed in the study may portray IUDs in a negative light, the fact that people talk about their experiences so openly may prompt more patients to speak up for themselves in positive ways.
“From my own experience as a resident physician, I have patients who talk to me more about their pain,” Wu said. “I think all of us [doctors] I want to know what patients are worried about before they come in, because that’s one way we can help assuage their fears or anxieties and hopefully ease their pain.”
His team’s research also shows that “there is a space for health care professionals, or health care professionals who work with influential people that people trust and love” to talk about options. of birth control, Wu said. Since Generation Z patients may be more inclined to search TikTok before Googleit can be a platform to combat medical misinformation, if healthcare providers learn how to interact with users.
“I think TikTok can be a wealth of information in the right way,” Wu said.