Table Of Contents
- What is an IUD?
- How Does it Prevent Pregnancy?
- What Are the Benefits?
- What Are the Disadvantages?
- How Effective is it?
- How Safe is it?
- How do I get one?
What is an IUD?
An IUD (intrauterine device) is a small t-shaped device that is made out of plastic. The t-shaped device is inserted into a women uterus to prevent pregnancy.
There are two different types of devices available, the copper (ParaGard) or the hormonal (Mirena or Skyla).
- The ParaGard contains copper which is effective for 12 years
- Similar to other birth control methods, the hormonal release small amounts of progestin. There are three different brands of hormonal devices. Skyla and Liletta which are effective for three years and the Mirena which is effective for five years.
How Does it Prevent Pregnancy?
The copper and hormonal work by affecting the way sperm moves. The copper does not allow sperm to join the egg (thus pregnancy cannot happen). The hormonal makes cervical mucus thicker in a woman which doesn’t allow sperm from getting into the eggs.
What Are the Benefits?
This method is one of the longest lasting birth control methods beside sterilization. It is also one of the least inexpensive methods. Some of the other benefits include:
- Improve sex life
- Feel more spontaneous (do not worry about becoming pregnant)
- Used while breastfeeding
- The copper (ParaGard) does not affect women’s hormone levels
- Ability to become pregnant immediately after it is removed
- Lighter and reduced periods by 90%. Some women may not get periods anymore
Some women may be concerned about becoming pregnant if they do not have a regular period. To be sure, a pregnancy test may need to be conducted.
What Are the Disadvantages?
The possible side effects while using this method include:
- Irregular periods (first 3-6 months of insertion) with Skyla or Mirena
- Worse menstrual cramps or heavier periods with ParaGard
- Spotting between periods (first 3-6 months)
- Backache or cramping (first few days)
- Moderate to mild pain after the insertion
Some discomforts such as cramping and reduce bleeding can be lessen by the use of pain relievers. If they continue to happen and provide severer discomfort, please notify a health care professional.
Serious problems with this method are rare but here are things to watch out for:
- It can push into the wall of the uterus. This may sound painful but it isn’t and can be fixed right away after the health care professional notices it. If it is not noticed by the health care professional right away, it can harm other parts of the body. If this occurs, surgery may be required to remove the IUD.
- It can slip out of the uterus (either come out all the way or out a little). This can happen to women who are younger and/or who have not have had a baby before. If it comes out a little, it needs to be removed and if it slips out of position, pregnancy can happen.
- Develop infection while using this method. This usually happens when bacteria gets into the uterus while insertion. These infections usually appear within three weeks and need to be treated immediately. Failure to get this treated can cause the ability to get pregnant in the future.
Other treatments and medicines can help with any complications if they occur.
Tell your health care professional if any of these symptoms occur:
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Unexplained chills/and or fever
- Unusually, light, or missed periods
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Tiredness or muscle aches
- Bleeding or pain during sex
- Severe tenderness, cramping, or pain in the abdomen
- Longer lasting or heavier periods than normal
- Think you may be pregnant
- Not able to do the following when you check
- Feel the string ends
- Feel the hard plastic bottoms of the “T”
- Feel the strings to be longer or shorter than when first inserted
How Effective is it?
This method is one of the most effective ways of birth control. Less than 1 in 100 women get pregnant each year when they use this method. This method does not protect against STI and a condom should be used to reduce the risk.
The Copper (ParaGard) can be used as an emergency birth control within five days of unprotected intercourse. It can help reduce the risk of pregnancy by 99.9%. It can also protect against pregnancy immediately after insertion.
Hormonal IUD should be inserted within seven days of when you start your period. If it is inserted afterwards, it is best to use another birth control method within seven days of insertion.
How Safe is it?
This method is safe for most women but certain conditions may increase your side effects. Talk to your health care professional to see whether or not this method will be effective for you.
This method should not be used if you:
- Have cancer of the uterus
- Have cervical cancer that has not been treated
- Might be pregnant
- Have/may have other pelvic infection or an STI (sexually transmitted infection)
- Have had pelvic infection following either an aborting or early child birth (within 3 months)
- Unexplained bleeding in your vagina
- Pelvic tuberculosis
- Uterine perforation (during insertion)
These are not common but a health care professional may find that a woman’s uterus does not allow for a correct placement of an IUD (depending on a unique shape, size or condition).
The copper (ParaGard) should not be used if:
- Allergy to copper
- Wilson’s Disease (inherited disease that does not allow the body to get rid of copper)
The hormonal IUD should not be used if:
- Severe liver disease
- May have/have breast cancer
If these conditions make it safe to use this method, please check out other methods of birth control.
How do I get one?
In order to get an IUD, you would need to talk to your health care professional. They will assess your medical history and the way you live your life. For instance, it is important to be open about your sex life to determine if this method is appropriate for you.
If this method is appropriate, you might need to get tested for STI or other infections to make sure if the IUD is safe. The vagina and other organs will need to be checked before insertion. A health care professional will also check for any type of pelvic infection, if a pelvic infection is found, treatment will needed to done before getting an IUD.
The cost of this method ranges from $0-1,000 and can protect against pregnancy for 5-12 years, depending on which IUD is used (copper or hormonal). This is a one-time cost versus the other types of birth control methods.
The insertion of an IUD can be inserted at any time during the month but it is more conformable during midway of your menstrual cycle. This is because the cervix is the most open. It can also be inserted after pregnancy or an abortion.
Once it is inserted, some women feel discomfort or some sort of cramping. This will go away with pain revilers and rest. It is important to take pain relievers before the IUD is inserted to lessen discomfort. It is important you bring someone to drive you home because you may feel dizzy after insertion.
After it is placed, a string (about 1-2 inches) will hang down from your vagina.
It should be removed by a health care professional and never to be removed by yourself. In most cases it is easily pulled free with surgical tools. Surgery may be needed in rare cases.