Patient Education Video: Intrauterine Device (IUD)

Could an IUD Be Right for You?

The IUD is a birth control device that is inserted into the uterus by a doctor.

By Diana Rodriguez

Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

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The IUD, or intrauterine device, is a small, flexible, plastic appliance that is shaped like a "T" and inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. While you can't really feel an IUD, there are strings attached to it that hang down into the vagina so that you can tell where it is and if it has moved at all. It’s an effective, convenient, and long-lasting form of birth control — it can prevent pregnancy without a woman giving birth control another thought for years.

How IUDs Work

How the IUD will prevent pregnancy will depend on what kind of IUD it is. The IUD contains one of two substances that prevent pregnancy: copper or the hormone levonorgestrel.

  • Copper IUD.The IUD that contains copper is called the ParaGard. The copper inside the IUD prevents sperm from traveling into the fallopian tubes. If sperm is able to reach an egg and fertilize it, the copper will keep the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, so that pregnancy doesn't occur. The copper IUD is 99 percent effective against pregnancy, and can remain implanted for about 10 years before it needs to be replaced.
  • Hormone IUD.The only hormone IUD currently on the market is Mirena, also known as an intrauterine system. Mirena contains the hormone levonorgestrel (a progesterone commonly used in contraceptives), which is slowly and regularly released to prevent ovulation, or the release of an egg. The hormone IUD is between 98 and 99 percent effective and will last for up to five years.

Risks and Side Effects of IUDs

While the IUD is a safe, effective birth control method, there are health risks and side effects to consider, including:

  • STD protection.While it protects against pregnancy, no form of IUD prevents sexually transmitted diseases or infections. For STD protection, you'll need to use condoms in addition to the IUD.
  • Menstrual changes.Spotting and heavier periods are common with the IUD, although some women actually experience lighter bleeding. Menstrual bleeding may become so heavy that anemia (insufficient red blood cells) may occur. The IUD may also increase menstrual cramping and cause some women to have low back pain.
  • Slipping.Rarely, the IUD may slip out of place. It can either push through the uterus, or slip out of the uterus and into the vagina. The IUD can be removed and implanted again or just put back into place, but the IUD can't protect against pregnancy unless it is properly in place.
  • Infection.While uncommon, an IUD can sometimes cause an infection. (This is a rare problem, affecting only 1 in every 1,000 women who have IUDs). Such infections can cause long-lasting damage to the reproductive system, however, and lead to future problems getting pregnant.
  • Allergic reaction.Anyone who is allergic to copper should not use ParaGard, as they may have an allergic reaction.

Any IUD has to be implanted by your doctor, who has to first agree that it's an appropriate birth control method. An IUD isn't the right choice for every woman — in fact, some uteruses may not be shaped in a way that will accommodate an IUD. A gynecological exam and a discussion with your doctor is the first step to determining if an IUD will "fit" your uterus, and if you are a good candidate for this form of birth control.

And be prepared to pay for the convenience of birth control that lasts for years. In addition to the cost of a gynecological exam, the IUD can cost from 5 to 0, and you'll need to check with your health insurance plan to see if it's covered.

If you're a woman who wants long-term pregnancy prevention, the IUD might be a good option for you to consider with your doctor. Once your doctor has inserted the IUD, you can carry on without even thinking about getting pregnant — until you want to.

Video: IUD Period: 12 Things to Expect Within the First Year After Insertion

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Date: 29.11.2018, 21:21 / Views: 75353