Intrauterine Devices- General Information
What is an intrauterine device? — An intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of birth control. It is a small, T-shaped device that a doctor or nurse puts through your vagina and cervix into your uterus. These devices are made of flexible plastic and have 2 thin plastic strings that hang out of the cervix. They are very small – a little more than 1 inch in width and length.
An IUD is one of the safest, most effective methods for preventing pregnancy. It is a good choice for women or teens who do not want to get pregnant for at least 1 year.
Some women use IUDs for reasons other than birth control. For example, one type of IUD can be used to treat heavy, painful periods. The other type can be used to prevent pregnancy if it is put in within 5 days after a woman has sex without birth control. This is known as "emergency contraception."
What are the different types of IUDs? — There are 2 types of IUDs. One type releases copper; the other releases the hormone progestin.
●Copper-containing IUD – There is only one copper-containing IUD. It is called Paragard and can stay in your uterus for up to 10 years to prevent pregnancy. Some women who use it get heavier or longer periods than they had before getting the IUD. Paragard also can be used for emergency contraception.
●Progestin-releasing IUD – There are 3 progestin-releasing IUDs, called Mirena, Skyla, and Liletta. Mirena can stay in your uterus for up to 5 years to prevent pregnancy. Skyla and Liletta can stay in place for up to 3 years. Many women who use progestin-releasing IUDs have lighter, less painful periods than they had before getting the IUD. Some women stop getting a period at all, but this is not harmful and does not need to be treated. Regular periods return when the device is taken out.
What are the benefits of using an IUD? — The benefits of using an IUD include:
●IUDs are very effective. Fewer than 1 in 100 women who use these devices get pregnant during the first year of using them.
●You do not have to remember to do anything or take any birth control medicines on a regular basis.
●IUDs have few side effects.
●IUDs do not contain estrogen, a hormone that some women can't or don't want to take.
●If you decide you want to get pregnant, you can have the IUD taken out.
●If you use an IUD for several years, it costs less overall than many other types of birth control. That's because there are no costs after you have it inserted.
What are the downsides of an IUD? — The downsides of an IUD include:
●Unlike condoms, an IUD does not protect you against infections you can catch during sex, called "sexually transmitted diseases" or "STDs." But your partner can use a condom to protect against transmitting infection.
●There is a small chance the IUD will come out during your period. If this happens, you will need a new IUD. If you see your IUD in your underwear, on your pad, or in the toilet, call your doctor or nurse.
●The initial cost is higher than the cost of other methods. But, there are no more costs after it is inserted.
●Only a doctor or nurse can insert or remove an IUD.
You should not get an IUD if you recently had an infection that spread to your uterus and other nearby organs, called a "pelvic infection." STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic infections.
Which type of IUD is best for me? — Your nurse or doctor can help you choose the right IUD for you.
Paragard might be a good choice if you:
●Want or need to avoid hormones. This includes women who have had deep blood clots in their legs.
●Want to avoid big changes in your period, such not having any periods or bleeding or spotting when you might not expect it.
●Want birth control for up to 10 years.
Mirena, Skyla, or Liletta might be a good choice if you:
●Have heavy, painful periods. Mirena. Skyla, and Liletta can make your periods lighter and less painful.
●Want birth control for up to 5 years.
Does it hurt to have an IUD put in? — You will likely feel some discomfort and slight cramping after the nurse or doctor puts the IUD into your uterus. Women who have not had a baby often feel more discomfort than women who have had a baby. After the IUD is in place, you should not be able to feel it.
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — If you have an IUD, see your doctor or nurse right away if:
●You have bad pain in your lower belly
●Your period is late or very different from normal
●You cannot feel the string of the IUD or if the string seems shorter than usual
●You think your IUD might have moved or fallen out
●You had sex with someone who has or might have an STD, or you think you have an STD
●You have an unexplained fever
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Content adapted from UpToDate Patient Information.