IUDs or intrauterine devices are one of the most popular methods of birth control among women, particularly in recent years. Many women like that it offers many benefits that the pill cannot: it is a “set it and forget it” method of birth control, involving a one-time payment, and the patient does not have to remember to take a pill at the same time on a daily basis. If you are considering getting an IUD, there are a few things you should know before having it inserted.
What is an IUD?
An IUD is a small, flexible, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare professional. There are five brands of IUD divided into two different types:
- Copper IUDs (a.k.a. ParaGard)
- Hormonal IUDs (include Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla)
Hormonal IUDs work by using the hormone progestin to thicken cervical mucus which blocks sperm. Copper IUDs are wrapped in a small bit of copper, are nonhormonal, and act as spermicide, damaging sperm mobility and viability. The body’s response to the IUD varies from person to person; for some, ovulation is prevented too while for others, it is not. Generally, they all work by preventing sperm from getting to the egg.
The main difference between the two types of IUDs is how long you can keep them in without benign replaced. ParaGard can remain in place for up to 12 years while the Mirena and Liletta can for six years, Kyleena for five years, and Skyla for three years.
IUDs are ranked for the same effectiveness at preventing pregnancy as getting your tubes tied but they do not impact your future fertility. The IUD has a 99% rate of effectiveness, largely because, unlike the pill, it is not something you can forget to take, therefore, there is no user error involved.
How is an IUD inserted? Is it painful?
In the insertion process, the cervix is opened and the IUD is placed into the uterus. While the insertion process can be slightly painful, the procedure generally takes just a few minutes. You may experience cramping for about 24 to 48 hours after the procedure as this is a common response among women after an IUD is inserted.
Will an IUD affect my period?
Whether or not your period alters, depends on the type of IUD you choose. Hormonal IUDs tend to make periods lighter and shorter and lessen cramps. IUDs may instead cause a heavier period, but this generally fades over time. Every woman reacts differently but if you are concerned about how you may react to an IUD, you should discuss this with your OBGYN during your consultation appointment.
What are the pros and cons of an IUD?
In addition to the advantages previously mentioned, IUDs have long-lasting effects but can be reversed simply by removing the IUD. What makes the IUD appealing to many is that you visit an office once to have it inserted then you don’t have to remember on a daily basis to take a pill. It is the most effective but also reversible form of contraception.
The biggest disadvantage of IUDs is the discomfort they can cause women. There are a wide array of side effects that can come along with them including abdominal or pelvic pain, nausea, vomiting, migraines, headaches, spotting or irregular bleeding, and breast tenderness. The side effects vary depending on which type of IUD you get.
This does not typically happen but there is a slim chance your IUD could fall out, most commonly during a period in the first three months. Your OBGYN may recommend that you check to feel for the IUD string occasionally but never pull it out. If your IUD does become dislodged, see your OBGYN ASAP to have it reinserted.