The Paragard IUD is a copper releasing intrauterine device and is the only 100% hormone-free IUD currently on the market. It is solely meant to be used as a contraceptive and does not protect against HIV and other STIs.
Much like other IUDs, it’s a long-acting, reversible T-shaped device that is inserted into a woman’s uterus. However, unlike other IUDs, its flexible plastic frame is also wrapped in copper and does not release any hormones.
It’s over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, and can be inserted for up to 10 years. However, it can be removed at any time by a healthcare practitioner.
Furthermore, the Paragard IUD is the only IUD that can be used as emergency contraception up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
While the Paragard IUD does not release any hormones into your uterine cavity, it does release copper.
Per Paragard’s website, 176 mg of copper is wrapped on the vertical stem of the “T” shaped frame, and 68.7 mg of copper is wrapped on each of the horizontal arms.
In terms of the Paragard dosage, copper is continuously released into the uterine cavity. The copper is only released within the uterus and should not affect any other part of your body.
The IUD is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy because the copper is toxic to sperm. As such, the copper in the device acts as a highly effective spermicide. This is why the copper IUD can also be used as emergency contraception up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
While copper is toxic to sperm, it does not have any harmful effects on your body. This is because the copper ions do not migrate to other parts of your body. They simply create a toxic environment for sperm, which helps to prevent pregnancy.
In sum, the copper in the IUD interferes with sperm movement, egg fertilization, and possibly prevents implantation.
Additionally, since the Paragard IUD is hormone-free, it doesn’t stop your menstrual cycle from occurring.
The Paragard IUD must be inserted by a healthcare practitioner. It’s a nonsurgical placement and can be done within minutes during a routine visit. While it can be inserted any time, it’s typically recommended to have it inserted during menstruation.
Here’s what your healthcare practitioner will do during your Paragard insertion:
- Examine your pelvis to find the position of your uterus
- Insert a speculum and use an antiseptic solution around your vagina and cervix
- Measure the depth of your uterine cavity
- Insert the Paragard IUD into your uterus
- Properly position the IUD and remove the inserter
- Trim the IUD’s threads to an appropriate length
During the Paragard insertion, you can experience some pain and discomfort. After insertion, it’s also normal to feel some dizziness and experience some bleeding. However, if these symptoms linger past 30 minutes, be sure to advise your healthcare practitioner as the Paragard IUD may not be positioned correctly.
After the initial appointment for insertion, it’s strongly advised to book a follow up appointment with your doctor after one month. This is to ensure your IUD is still positioned correctly and that there are no complications.
You will also need to do a simple monthly check after your period to ensure the IUD is still in place.
In order to check, ensure you first wash your hands with soap and water. Then, reach up to the top of your vagina and feel for the threads. If you do not feel the threads or you feel more than the threads, book an appointment with your doctor immediately because the IUD could be displaced.
Do not pull on the threads as this can displace your IUD. Never attempt to remove it yourself— always book an appointment with your doctor if you have concerns or wish to have it removed.
In addition to this, during your Paragard insertion appointment, be sure to speak to your doctor about how to check the position of the IUD.
It’s also important to note that the threads will not extend outside of your vagina. Additionally, your partner should not be able to feel them during intercourse.
Paragard Side Effects
While the Paragard IUD is safe to use, some women may experience side effects. A few common Paragard side effects include:
- Heavier, longer periods
- Spotting between periods
- Cramping and discomfort during periods
These Paragard side effects should level out after 2 to 3 months. However, if they persist, consult with your doctor.
Serious side effects are not as common. However, they can include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease or endometritis
- Difficult removal due to embedment
- Intrauterine pregnancy
- Ectopic pregnancy
Other uncommon Paragard side effects also include:
- Pain during intercourse
- Menstrual cramps
- Allergic reaction
- Vaginal infection
Currently, there are no known drug interactions with the Paragard IUD. However, it is important to inform your healthcare practitioner about any medications you are taking.
Paragard Pros and Cons
Just like other birth control methods, the Paragard IUD has its advantages and disadvantages. If you’re thinking of getting this IUD, take a look at a list of the Paragard pros and cons below:
Pros of the Paragard IUD
- Long-term, reversible birth control that can be inserted for up to 10 years
- Over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy
- 100% hormone-free
- Effective emergency birth control option when used up to 5 days after unprotected sex
- Can be used if you have or haven’t had a child
- Doesn’t have to be taken daily, unlike the pill
- Can be used while breastfeeding
- Can get pregnant soon after removal
Cons of the Paragard IUD
- Can cause mild to severe side effects
- Can cause changes to the menstrual cycle
- Does not protect against HIV/AIDs and other STIs
- Insertion can be painful
- Increased risk of expulsion or perforation in women who are nursing
- Unsafe for women who can get infections easily
- Can be expensive without insurance coverage
How Much Does Paragard Cost?
Depending on your insurance plan, you might be covered for all Paragard IUD costs. When considering the IUD, check with your insurance provider to see if it is covered.
Paragard can assist you with looking into coverage through your insurance provider. In order to do this, you will need to download and print a Paragard Benefits Verification Request Form SM. Learn more about the process on Paragard’s website.
If you are checking your coverage on your own, ask your insurer if the Paragard IUD is covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Your insurer may also ask for a J Code. If so, provide them with: J7300.
In the event that the Paragard IUD is not covered as a medical benefit, check to see if it’s covered as a pharmacy benefit.
You can also purchase the IUD directly from Paragard Patient Direct TM as long as you have a prescription for it. Again, check their website for full details on these steps.
Without insurance, the Paragard cost can be up to $1000. However, this can also include the cost for the insertion in addition to the IUD.
Based on 482 Paragard reviews on Drugs.com, this IUD received an average rating of 7 out of 10, and 3.5 stars..
For the most part, reviews are mixed. The most common complaints include painful insertions and heavy periods. However, other women did not experience a change in their menstrual cycles or other side effects.
While some women may experience side effects, others do not experience them at all. With this in mind, remember that there may be other birth control options that are more suitable for you.