Have you looked into using an intra-uterine device (IUD) to prevent pregnancy?
Choosing a birth control method that fits your lifestyle can be challenging. IUDs offer unique advantages over other forms of birth control, such as the patch or the pill, and might be the solution for you.
How Does an IUD Work?
An IUD is a T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus through the cervix. IUDs come in two different types — hormonal and copper. Hormonal IUDs, such as Skyla, Mirena or Liletta, contain levonorgestrel, a type of progesterone. When the IUD is in place, this hormone is released throughout the uterus. ParaGard, the copper IUD, contains no hormones, but both types prevent pregnancy in a similar way: They inhibit the sperm’s movement so it cannot join with an egg.
Are IUDs Effective?
Both hormonal and copper devices are extremely effective forms of birth control, with a 99 percent prevention rate. Fewer than 1 in 100 women become pregnant every year while using IUDs. In addition, if the ParaGard is inserted within five days after unprotected sex, it can reduce the risk of pregnancy by over 99 percent.
What Are the Advantages of an IUD?
A common struggle for many women is remembering to take a birth control pill every day. Once an IUD is put in place, you don’t need to worry anymore about pregnancy prevention. The Skyla is functional for up to three years, the Mirena is effective for five years, and the ParaGard can be used for up to 10 years.
The copper IUD is effective immediately, and hormonal IUDs are effective right away if inserted within seven days after the start of your period. If inserted later, a backup birth control method is recommended for the first week.
These devices are also safe to use while breastfeeding and are typically inserted at 6-8 weeks postpartum, when the uterus has returned to its pre-pregnant size. If you decide you would like to become pregnant after having an IUD, there is no waiting period for fertility to return. You can become pregnant right after it’s removed.
How Is the IUD Inserted?
Your health care provider will use a special device to slowly and gently insert the IUD. The procedure typically only takes between five and 10 minutes. The device will stay closed until it has reached the top of your uterus, then the doctor will cut the strings to the appropriate length. You will be able to reach inside and feel the strings to check if the device is in the right place, which you should do at least once per month.
What Are the Risks?
While serious issues are rare, it is possible for the device to slip out of place. This will put you at risk of pregnancy. Also, the IUD could shift and implant into the wall of your uterus. If this happens, your health care provider will remove the device immediately through surgery.
What Are the Side Effects?
One of the advantages to using an IUD is its minimal side effects. You may experience cramping for a few weeks after it is inserted and your menstrual bleeding will change. For hormonal IUDs, it’s likely that your periods will become shorter, lighter and eventually disappear completely. The copper IUD may make your periods heavier and longer, but this change should stabilize within a few months, once your body accustoms to the device.
If you believe an IUD could be an appropriate birth control method for your lifestyle, make an appointment with Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center. You can take the next step toward smart, safe pregnancy prevention by learning more about whether an IUD is a good fit for you.
This article reviewed by Chelsea Cheney.