The IUD – What You Need to Know
An IUD is a tiny device that is placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It is long-term, reversible, and one of the most effective birth control methods available. IUD stands for intrauterine device. It is a small piece of flexible plastic shaped like a T.
Types of IUDs
There are 5 different brands of IUDs that are FDA approved in the United States: ParaGard, Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla. These IUDs are divided into 2 types: copper-containing IUDs (ParaGard) and hormone-containing IUDs (Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla).
The ParaGard IUD does not have hormones. It is wrapped in copper, and it is effective for up to 12 years. The Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla IUDs use the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. Progestin is very similar to the progesterone. Mirena and Kyleena are effective for up to 5 years. Liletta works for up to 4 years. Skyla works for up to 3 years.
How Does the IUD Work?
Both copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by changing the way sperm moves so they can’t get to an egg. If sperm can’t make it to an egg, pregnancy can’t happen.
The ParaGard IUD uses copper to prevent pregnancy. Sperm is adversely affected by copper, so the ParaGard IUD makes it almost impossible for sperm to get to that egg.
The hormones in the Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla IUDs prevent pregnancy in two ways. First, hormones thicken the cervical mucus, which blocks and traps the sperm. Second, the hormones sometimes stop ovulation, which means there is no egg for a sperm to fertilize. No egg, no pregnancy.
One of the advantages of IUDs is that they last for years — but they are not permanent. If you decide to get pregnant or you just do not want to have your IUD anymore, it can quickly and easily be removed. You are able to get pregnant immediately after the IUD is removed.
IUDs For Emergency Contraception?
The ParaGard (copper) IUD works well as emergency contraception. If you have it placed within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex, it is more than 99.9% effective. It is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy after sex.
IUDs are more than 99% effective. That means fewer than 1 out of 100 women who use an IUD will get pregnant each year. IUDs are effective because there is no chance for you to make a mistake. You cannot forget to take it (like the pill), or use it incorrectly (like condoms). And you are protected for 3-12 years, depending on which kind you get. Once your IUD is in place, you can pretty much forget about it until it expires – just keep track of your insertion and removal date.
Do IUDs protect against STDs?
No, IUDs do NOT protect against STDs.
Where Do I Get an IUD?
An IUD has to be put in by a healthcare provider.
The IUD Insertion
People usually feel slight cramping or pain when the IUD is placed. The pain can be worse for some, but it only lasts for a minute or two. Some people feel dizzy during or right after the IUD is inserted. You might want to ask someone to come with you to the appointment so you don’t have to drive or go home alone, and to give yourself some time to relax afterward.
What To Expect After an IUD Insertion
Most people feel perfectly fine right after an IUD insertion – although some people need to take it easy for a while after the insertion. Heating pads and over-the-counter pain meds can help ease cramps.
You may have cramping and spotting after getting an IUD, but this almost always goes away within 6-8 weeks. Hormonal IUDs eventually make periods lighter and less crampy, and periods mights stop completely. Copper IUDs may make periods heavier and cramps worse. For some people, this goes away over time. There is a very small chance that your IUD could slip out of place. It can happen any time, but it is more common during the first 3 months. If your IUD falls out, you are NOT protected from pregnancy, so make sure to go see your doctor, and use condoms or another kind of birth control in the meantime.
How soon after getting an IUD can I have sex?
You can have sex as soon as you want after getting an IUD.
Who SHOULDN’T Get an IUD?
Most people can use IUDs safely, but there are some conditions that make side effects or complications more likely. You may not be able to get an IUD if you:
- have certain STD’s or pelvic infection
- think you might be pregnant
- have cervical cancer that has not been treated
- have cancer of the uterus
- have vaginal bleeding that is not your period
- have had a pelvic infection after either childbirth or an abortion in the past 3 months
Additionally, you should not get a ParaGard IUD if you have a copper allergy or a bleeding disorder that makes it hard for your blood to clot. Very rarely, the size or shape of someone’s uterus makes it hard to place an IUD correctly.
Risks of IUD
There are possible risks with an IUD, but serious problems are really rare.
The IUD can sometimes slip out of the uterus — it can come all the way out or just a little bit. If this happens, you can get pregnant. If the IUD only comes out part of the way, it has to be removed. It is possible — though extremely unlikely — to get pregnant even if the IUD is in the correct location. If you get pregnant with an IUD in place, there is an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and other serious health problems.
It is possible to get an infection if bacteria get into the uterus when the IUD is inserted. If the infection is not treated, it may affect your chances of getting pregnant in the future.
When the IUD is inserted, it could push through the wall of the uterus. If this happens, you could need surgery to remove the IUD. This is very rare.
What Warning Signs Should I Know About?
Chances are that you will NOT have problems with your IUD. But it is important to pay attention to your body and how you feel after you get your IUD. Here are the warning signs to watch out for:
- the length of your IUD string feels shorter or longer than previously
- you can feel the hard plastic bottom of the IUD coming out through your cervix
- you think you might be pregnant
- you have bad cramping, pain, or soreness in your lower abdomen
- there is recurrent pain or bleeding during sex
- you get unexplained fever, chills, or have trouble breathing
- your vaginal discharge is different than normal
- you have vaginal bleeding that is heavier than usual
IUD and Breastfeeding?
Yes, it is safe to use the IUD while you’re breastfeeding. It should not have any effect on how much milk you produce, and it will not hurt your baby. In fact, the IUD is a great method to use if yo a’re breastfeeding and you do not want to get pregnant.
IUD Side Effects
Some people have side effects after getting an IUD. They usually go away in about 3–6 months. Side effects can include:
- pain when the IUD is put in
- cramping or backaches for a few days after the IUD is put in
- spotting between periods
- irregular periods
- heavier periods and worse menstrual cramps (ParaGard)
Pain medicine can usually help with cramping. If the bleeding or cramping gets worse or does not get better, tell your healthcare provider immediately.
Getting an IUD removed is quick and easy. A healthcare provider gently pulls on the string, and the IUD slips out. You may feel cramping for a minute as it comes out. There is a small chance that your IUD will not come out easily. If this happens, your healthcare provider may use special instruments to remove it. Very rarely, surgery may be needed.
You can get your IUD taken out whenever you want. ParaGard should be replaced after 12 years. Mirena and Kyleena should be replaced after 5 years. Liletta should be replaced after 4 years. Skyla should be replaced after 3 years.
You should feel completely normal after getting your IUD removed. You may have some spotting. Your period will go back to how it was before you got your IUD.
Your fertility goes back to normal right after your IUD is removed. It is possible to get pregnant right away. If you get your IUD removed and you don’t want to get pregnant, use another method of birth control.