IUDs, or intrauterine devices, are little T-shaped plastic gadgets that sit in your uterus and prevent pregnancy. How do they do that? In copper IUDs, the T is actually a plastic device wrapped in copper wire that releases copper into your uterus, causing an immune reaction. This reaction is safe for your reproductive organs, while causing damage to any sperm that enter. The copper damages the sperm’s ability to move and fertilize an egg.
Copper IUDs are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, and can last for up to 10 years. That makes it the longest-lasting form of birth control on the market. It’s also the only non-hormonal form of non-barrier birth control.
After the IUD is inserted, you shouldn’t be able to feel it. You won’t have to worry for years, unlike the pill, the patch, or the progestin shot, which require regular maintenance. If you decide to start trying to conceive, the IUD is easily removed, and fertility comes back quickly.
It’s hard to say if this is a pro or a con because every woman has different needs, but the copper IUD allows you to have a regular monthly period. If you like this monthly reminder that you’re not pregnant, then this is great! If you’d rather not have a period, this is less amazing news.
Some women report that the insertion of the IUD is painful, though others said it was similar to a Pap smear, menstrual cramps, or just a pinching sensation. Many women experience heavy bleeding for three to six months after insertion, and some continue to have heavy periods and cramping every month with the IUD. There’s also a small chance that your IUD could fall out or perforate the walls of the uterus, but this is rare. And as with all medical procedures, there is a slight chance of infection following insertion, as well as a slightly elevated risk of complications from STIs, such as PID.
With what we now know about the risks of getting pregnant within 18 months of a previous delivery, it’s so important to have your postpartum birth control plan figured out even before giving birth.
IUDs can be inserted in the hospital immediately following delivery, and this is an option that more and more women and healthcare providers are taking advantage of. Whatever you choose to do about postpartum birth control, it’s a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider about it if you haven’t already.
“Non-hormonal contraceptive methods.” Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, July 2013. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “ParaGard (copper IUD).” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, January 21 2015. Web.