What is an IUD?
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are
small devices placed in your uterus to interrupt the process of insemination. IUDs
have been on and off the market for decades. They’re very popular around the
world and one of the most effective forms of birth control. Two to 8 in every 1,000
women who have IUDs get pregnant in a year of typical use.
There are two types of IUD:
copper and hormonal. Currently, there are four brands of IUDs available in the
United States: ParaGard is a copper IUD, and Mirena, Liletta, and Skyla are
hormonal IUDs that use progestin.
IUDs are an excellent choice of
birth control for many women. However, they are not the best choice for women
who are at a high risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
How does an
Both the copper and hormonal
types of IUDs work by making it difficult for sperm to reach your egg.
ParaGard causes an inflammation
response in the lining of your uterus. This inflammation is toxic to sperm. It
also makes your uterus hostile to implantation, if fertilization occurs. But recent
studies have failed to find evidence that fertilization ever occurs. ParaGard
works for up to 10 years after it’s inserted.
Mirena works to thin the lining
of your uterus to prevent the transport of sperm into your fallopian tubes
where fertilization must occur. The progestin it releases also thickens your cervical
mucus and can prevent ovulation. Mirena can last for up to five years after
insertion. Skyla and Liletta are smaller and contain a lower dose of progestin.
They both thin your uterus lining, and can last up to three years.
How is an
An IUD is inserted by a
healthcare professional. Make an appointment with your doctor to determine if
the IUD is the best birth control option for you. An IUD can be inserted any
time it is certain that you’re not pregnant.
Your doctor will insert the IUD
through your cervix and into your uterus. The procedure usually takes less than
15 minutes, and can be done with or without local anesthesia. You will probably
feel some cramping or discomfort.
There is a very small
risk of expulsion when the IUD is implanted. For the first few months, it’s
important to check that it’s still in place. You should do this every month.
To check your IUD:
- Wash your hands with soap and
- Put your finger into your
vagina until you touch your cervix.
- Feel for the string ends.
You should be able to feel the
string. If the string feels shorter or longer than normal, there may be a
problem. You should not feel the hard end of the IUD against your cervix.
If there is a problem, don’t pull
on the string or try to reinsert the IUD yourself. Instead, make an appointment
with your doctor. While you’re waiting for the IUD to be reinserted, use an
alternative form of contraception.
Expulsion is rare. If it happens,
it will probably be during your period. Expulsion is most likely in the first
few months after insertion.
is an IUD?
Both types of IUDs are more than
99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. They’re one of the most effective
types of birth control available. They’re also one of the most convenient forms
of birth control because they work for between 3 and 10 years.
What are the
advantages of an IUD?
An IUD has many benefits. Among
- convenience: IUDs don’t require preparation
- can be used while breastfeeding
reversible if you want to get pregnant
- inexpensive: after the initial cost of
insertion there are no more costs for three to 10 years
Mirena, Liletta, and Skyla can
also help relieve:
- menstrual pain
- heavy periods
- pain from endometriosis
ParaGard can also be used as a
form of emergency contraception. According to Planned Parenthood, it is 99.9 percent effective at preventing a
pregnancy if inserted within five days of unprotected intercourse.
What are the
disadvantages of an IUD?
As with any birth control method,
there are going to pros and cons you’ll have to weigh before making your
decision. IUDs have the following disadvantages:
- they don’t
protect against STIs
can be painful
- ParaGard may
make your periods heavier
- ParaGard may
also make your menstrual cramps worse
Liletta, and Skyla may make your periods irregular
These side effects usually go
away within the first six months of use.
What are the
risks of an IUD?
There is a small risk of
infection when you use an IUD. This risk is highest during insertion. You shouldn’t
get an IUD if you have, or may have, an STI. In addition, IUDs are not
recommended for women who:
ParaGard isn’t recommended for women who are, or might be,
allergic to copper, or women who have Wilson’s disease.
Mirena, Liletta, and Skyla aren’t recommended for women who have
disease, or women who have, or may have, breast cancer.
Because there is a slight risk of
infection when your doctor inserts the IUD, they may require that you get
tested for STIs first.