Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are small devices that can be placed in the uterus for preventing pregnancy. Their efficacy is more than 99%, which means less than one out of every 100 women with an IUD implant will get pregnant in a year.
Different types of IUDs are available with each having almost similar efficacy and benefits when it comes to choosing one. The difference lies in their cost, the time for which you want to wear, and the side-effects (or risks) associated with them. Your doctor will discuss all the available IUD options with you before implanting one.
What are the benefits of an intrauterine device?
Intrauterine devices offer multiple advantages over other contraceptive methods, including hormonal pills and sterilization procedures. These include:
- Long-lasting (3-10 years depending on the brand) with minimal efforts
- Hassle-free way of contraception with no need for daily compliance
- Reversible (easier to remove after insertion)
- One-time investment (you do not have to keep buying or stocking them from time to time as the case with oral contraceptive pills)
- Most effective option if you can neither take oral contraceptive pills nor undergo sterilization surgery
- Safe and suitable for immediate insertion after (within 10-20 minutes) delivery and abortion (accidental or planned)
- Safe during breastfeeding
What are the types of intrauterine devices and how do they work?
Currently available IUDs are of two types:
Hormonal IUD: Hormonal IUDs release a specific amount of hormone every day. Depending on the hormone, these IUDs thicken the cervical mucus to prevent the sperm from reaching the uterus and/or inhibit the release of the egg (ovulation) from the ovaries. The different brands are:
- Skyla: Effective for up to 3 years.
- Liletta: Effective for up to 5 years.
- Kyleena: Effective for up to 5 years.
- Mirena: Effective for 5 years.
Nonhormonal IUD: Copper IUD is the only available nonhormonal IUD under the brand name Paraguard. It is effective for a longer duration than most hormonal methods with its effects lasting for up to 12 years. This kind of IUD works by destroying the sperms when they come into contact with the metal copper. It also helps in preventing unwanted pregnancy if you get it inserted within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex.
How is an intrauterine device inserted and removed?
Your doctor will ask you several questions to see if you are fit for an IUD insertion. Generally, there are only a few factors that could restrict you from getting an IUD. These are
- Sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- An allergy to the material in the IUD (such as copper)
- An abnormal uterus
- Cancer of the reproductive organs
Let your doctor know if you are pregnant or think you could be pregnant because IUD cannot be inserted during pregnancy.
The doctor can insert IUD in the office setting. The insertion procedure takes less than 5 minutes. You will have to lie down on the back with legs spread wide apart.
You may experience some mild cramping and bleeding for a few days after the insertion. You can take over the counter pain medication, such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen before coming to the office or after the procedure.
After the IUD is in place in your uterus, you can continue doing any kind of physical activity, such as swimming, jogging, heavy weightlifting, and even have sex after 24 hours.
You can get your IUD removed by requesting the doctor or at the time of its expiration date, approximately 3-10 years later depending on the type of IUD. Its removal takes about 2-3 minutes.
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ParaGard® (Copper IUD). Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/17741-paragard%C2%AE-copper-iud
Implants. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/mmwr/spr/implants.html
LILETTA (levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system). Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2019/206229s008lbl.pdf
Birth Control and the IUD (Intrauterine Device). Available at: https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/iud-intrauterine-device