What is it?
The intrauterine device (called IUD for short) is a very small T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare provider. It can stay in place to work for three to 10 years. IUDs work by changing the lining of the uterus so that sperm can’t make their way to an egg to cause a pregnancy.
There are two types of IUDs:
The hormonal IUD releases a hormone called progestin. It can remain in place for three to five years. You might hear it called a brand name, like Mirena.
The copper IUD has copper wrapped around part of the plastic. It does not contain any hormones and can remain in place for up to 10 years. You might hear it called a brand name,
Your healthcare provider can help you decide which type of IUD is right for you.
What are some advantages?
- IUDs are super effective (99%) in preventing pregnancy (not to prevent).
- Once it is in place, you do not have to remember anything else to prevent pregnancy (other than to replace them once its time has expired).
- It is private and hidden. No one can tell that you are using it.
- Can be inserted immediately after an abortion, a miscarriage, or childbirth, while breastfeeding, or even if you have never had a pregnancy or baby.
- Almost all females who want to avoid pregnancy can use it.
- It is reversible. If you want to stop using it or become pregnant, you can simply have the IUD removed by your health care provider.
- The hormonal IUD may help with cramps and heavy menstrual bleeding.
- The copper IUD is also a highly effective (99.9%) form of emergency contraception (EC) if inserted within five days after unprotected intercourse.
- The cooper IUD does not have hormonal side effects.
What are some disadvantages?
- IUDs do not protect against STDs; use a condom every time you have sex to prevent STDs.
- With the copper IUD, period pain and bleeding may happen, especially in the first few months of use.
- Hormonal IUDs may cause spotting between periods, especially in the first few months of use.
- The IUD may come out of the uterus in the first year of use (about 5% of them do).
- Some people might have other, sometimes serious, but rare side effects while using the IUD. Talk to your healthcare provider about the risks.
Where and how do you get it?
A healthcare provider must insert and remove the IUD. It is inserted during a procedure that takes about 15 minutes. A slender plastic tube that contains the IUD goes into the vagina and is guided through the cervix into the uterus. The tube is taken out, leaving the IUD in place. Insertion of the IUD may cause some discomfort. The IUD has a string made of thin plastic threads that are trimmed after insertion. You can check the string to make sure the IUD is in place.