IUD (Intrauterine Devices for Birth Control)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- Introduction to birth control
- What are UIDs (intrauterine devices)?
- How does an IUD work?
- What are the side effects of an IUD?
- What are warning signs and symptoms of possible complications from an IUD?
- What are the types of IUDs (Paragard, Mirena, Skyla)?
- What are the advantages of an IUD?
- How is an IUD removed?
- What are the risks and complications of IUDs?
- Patient Comments: Birth Control - IUDs
- Patient Comments: Birth Control - IUD complications
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
Introduction to birth control
If a woman is sexually active and she is fertile and physically able to become pregnant, she needs to ask herself, "Do I want to become pregnant now?" If her answer is "No," she must use some method of birth control (contraception).
Words used to describe birth control methods include contraception, pregnancy prevention, fertility control, and family planning. But no matter what the terminology, sexually active people can choose from a number of methods to reduce the possibility of their becoming pregnant. Nevertheless, no method of birth control available today offers perfect protection against sexually transmitted infections (sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs), except abstinence.
All methods of birth control are based on either preventing a man's sperm from reaching and entering a woman's egg (fertilization) or preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the woman's uterus (her womb) and starting to grow. New methods of birth control are being developed and tested all the time. What is appropriate for a couple at one point in their lives may change with time and circumstances.
Unfortunately, no birth control method, except abstinence, is considered to be 100% effective.
What are UIDs (intrauterine devices)?
The intrauterine device (IUD) is a method of birth control designed for insertion into a woman's uterus so that changes occur in the uterus that make it difficult for fertilization of an egg and implantation of a pregnancy. IUDs also have been referred to as "intrauterine contraception (IUC). IUDs approved for use in the U.S. contain medications that are released over time to facilitate the contraceptive effect.
The IUD is a small "T"-shaped device with a monofilament tail that is inserted into the uterus by a health care practitioner in the office setting. When inserted into the uterus, the arms of the "T" are folded down, but they then open out to form the top of the "T". The device rests inside the uterus with the base of the T just above the cervix and the arms of the T extending horizontally across the uterus. A short piece of monofilament string attached to the IUD extends through the cervix into the vagina. This string makes it possible to be sure that the IUD is still in the uterus.
How does an IUD work?
It is not fully understood how IUDs work. They are thought to prevent conception by causing a brief localized inflammation that begins about 24 hours after insertion. This causes an inflammatory reaction inside the uterus that attracts white blood cells. The white blood cells produce substances that are toxic or poisonous to sperm. The progesterone-releasing IUDs also cause a subtle change in the endometrial environment that impairs the implantation of the egg in the uterine wall. This type of IUD also alters the cervical mucus, which, in turn, inhibits sperm from passing through the cervix.
IUDs are only available by prescription and must be properly inserted by a health care professional. A pelvic exam is required to insert an IUD. The IUD is inserted into the uterus long as she is not pregnant.
The woman must check her IUD every month to be sure that it is still in place. Sometimes, the uterus expels (pushes out) the IUD. Expulsions may not cause any specific symptoms and can be overlooked. In addition to the woman checking the IUD, the device must also be checked periodically by a health care professional.
Viewers share their comments
Find out what women really need.