An IUD (the abbreviation for intrauterine device) is a popular pregnancy prevention device for women. It is a safe and effective form of long-term, reversible contraceptive. Some types of IUDs prevent pregnancy for up to ten years.
IUD products are 99% effective in providing long-term birth control for women. One reason they are so effective is they remove the possibility of human error. With an IUD, you do not need to remember to take a pill each day or schedule a trip to the doctor at the right time of the month for a contraceptive injection.
Another reason for their popularity is the convenience; once properly placed in your uterus, you do not have to worry about becoming pregnant. When you are ready to conceive, your doctor can remove your IUD and you are immediately able to become pregnant. Economically, IUDs are inexpensive when compared to other forms of contraception.
What Are IUDs?
An IUD is a T-shaped plastic device about the size of a quarter. Your doctor inserts it into your uterus. Once properly inserted, your cervix will keep it in place. You will not be able to feel it. In fact, you will not know it is there.
The Different Types
In the United States, there are two categories of IUDs available: hormonal IUDs and copper IUDs. Which type of IUD is suitable for you depends on your health and personal preferences, as explained below.
The hormonal IUD products (brand names are Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, or Skyla) contain the hormone progestin. By slowly releasing the hormone, these IUDs can prevent pregnancy in several ways: 1) it thickens the mucus of the cervix so that it blocks and traps the sperm, 2) it can stop you from ovulating, meaning your ovaries do not release eggs, thus depriving the sperm of the ability to fertilize an egg, and 3) some IUDs also thin the uterine lining so that if sperm is able to reach an egg and fertilize it, the fertilized egg cannot implant in the uterus.
Once your doctor places a hormonal IUD in your uterus, you need to know that it may take a week to become fully effective. During that period of time, you should abstain from sex or use another form of contraception such as a condom. Hormonal IUDs are effective for three to five years.
For the first three to six months after the hormonal IUD is inserted, you may experience unpredictable menstrual cycles. Later on, many women with hormonal IUDs notice lighter menstrual bleeding and reduced cramps. Some women with hormonal IUDs may have no menstrual periods at all.
Other side effects of hormonal IUDs may include those similar to using birth control pills, including breast soreness or tenderness, headaches, nausea, weight gain, moodiness, and acne, but these are rare due to the low systemic exposure to the hormone with IUDs.
The non-hormonal, copper IUD (ParaGard) is another popular form of IUD. The ParaGard IUD can provide birth control for up to ten years. It is a T-shaped plastic frame with a copper wire coiled around it. Once inserted into the woman’s uterus, it works by producing an inflammatory reaction that is toxic to sperm and eggs (ova), thus preventing pregnancy. It provides immediate birth control.
The side effects some women experience during the first few months of using ParaGard include heavier menstrual bleeding and more cramping than usual. After that time, your menstrual periods should lighten up somewhat.
Some other side effects of ParaGard may include backaches, anemia, spotting between menstrual periods, and vaginal discharge. If you experience pain or discomfort during sex, you should consult with your doctor.
Why Use an IUD?
IUDs have advantages over other forms of birth control, as mentioned earlier. You do not have to take a pill or see your doctor for an injection. They can be used while breastfeeding and do not have side effects like blood clots and those related to hormonal birth control methods. Another benefit of an IUD is that it can be used for emergency contraception if inserted within five days after unprotected sex. One of the biggest benefits is that IUDs are extremely inexpensive.
IUDs are not appropriate for all women. They should not be used by women who have uterine abnormalities such as certain types of fibroids, a pelvic infection, or cancer, to name a few. Your doctor can discuss whether an IUD is appropriate for you after a thorough examination and evaluation of your health.
Speak with Raleigh Gynecology and Wellness to Learn More about Your Options for IUDs
IUDs are a safe and effective long-term, reversible form of contraception for many women. Before deciding whether an IUD is right for you, be sure to consult with the women’s health experts at Raleigh Gynecology and Wellness. The professionals at Raleigh make your reproductive health and well-being their top priority. Contact us soon to learn more about the options most suitable for your needs.