IUDs (intrauterine devices) have become the most popular contraceptive device worldwide. If you ask a few of your friends what type of birth control they’re using, there is a good chance that someone is probably using an IUD.
Though IUD use is on the rise, this wasn’t always the case. IUDs might still bring to mind some well-deserved bad press; there was one particular form of IUD called the Dalkon Shield that caused a number of serious health issues in the 1970s before being taken off the market. And for a long time, healthcare providers wouldn’t recommend the devices to women who were younger, who hadn’t yet had children, or who were not in a monogamous relationship. But we now know that the IUDs on the market today are a safe, effective, and long-lasting form of birth control.
An IUD is a T-shaped plastic device that is placed in the uterus by a healthcare provider. IUDs work by either preventing sperm and egg from meeting or by keeping the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus once they do. There are two main types of IUDs:
Brand names: Mirena, Liletta, Skyla, Kyleena
Hormonal IUDs use progestin (the same hormone used in the pill to prevent conception), and each of the four different types include different doses of hormones. Depending on the type, progestin-based IUDs can last either up to 3 years (Skyla), 5 years (Liletta and Kyleena), or 8 years (Mirena) without needing to be changed, and they can be removed at any time. These IUDs can have some hormonal side-effects, including acne, breast tenderness, and changes in menstruation that can include heavier flow, cramping during periods, and spotting between periods.
Brand name: ParaGard
The ParaGard IUD is different in that it’s the only copper-based IUD available in the U.S.; the small plastic T-shaped device is wrapped in a bit of copper wire. It lasts for up to 10 years without needing to be replaced, and it can be removed at any time. Side effects can include anemia, backaches, heavier periods and cramping, and pain during sex.
One major benefit is that IUDs are 99% effective. This means that fewer than 1 in 100 people who use an IUD as birth control will get pregnant each year. If you compare this to other birth control methods, it is extremely effective; the birth control pill is 91% effective, condoms are 85% effective, and the pull out method is 78% effective.
An IUD is also extremely low-maintenance. Once one has been placed, it’s effective for years without you having to do anything to maintain it. And, it can be removed at any time and you can potentially become pregnant right away.
Is an IUD right for Y-O-U?
Because there are a variety of IUD options, an IUD might be a good fit for you. For example, Mirena is recommended to help treat heavy and painful periods and may help with bleeding caused by endometriosis and fibroids. Liletta recently came out with a new inserter, which may make insertion more comfortable. And Paraguard might be a good fit for people who find non-hormonal birth control beneficial.
You should also know that IUDs have been associated with an increased risk of pelvic infections, especially for women with more than one sexual partner. And they do not protect against STDs, so you’ll want to use other methods of protection, such as condoms, to stay safe.
There are a lot of birth control options out there – and a variety of IUD options – so if you have questions about if an IUD is right for you, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to learn more.
- “Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC): IUD and Implant.” ACOG. FAQ 184 from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, May 2016. Web.
- Sara Kennedy, MD MPH. “Paraguard vs Mirena: Which IUD is right for you?” Bedsider. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Jan 9 2010. Web.