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What Birth Control Can be Fixed and Forgotten? The IUD

April 29, 2018

IUDs, or intrauterine devices, have become more popular in recent years and it’s easy to see why. It’s a low-cost, long-acting and reversible contraceptive (LARC) that is more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

What Is an IUD?

An IUD is a small plastic device that your gynecologist inserts in your uterus during an office visit. There are two types of IUDs: copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs. Both types act as guards to the uterus, keeping sperm from getting to the egg so pregnancy can’t take place. In copper IUDs, the metal repels sperm so they don’t travel up the fallopian tubes. Hormonal IUDs thicken mucus in the cervix, trapping sperm.

Copper IUDs can last up to 10 years while hormonal IUDs can be effective for three to five years.

Copper IUDs can last up to 10 years while hormonal IUDs can be effective for 3 to 5 years.

 

Who Can Use an IUD?

Doctor holding an IUD

Most women can use an IUD. Years ago, the belief was that the IUD should only be used by women who already had children and were in a stable relationship. But now it’s realized that women at any age who are seeking birth control can be a candidate — as long as there aren’t any contraindications.

The insertion procedure may involve some minor discomfort because the cervix will need to be dilated in order to insert the device. Your doctor may suggest you take a mild pain reliever before the procedure, and any discomfort typically goes away after a few hours.

Because the IUD prevents pregnancy locally — at the uterus — it is easily reversible if you decide you’d like it removed. It doesn’t affect fertility and once the IUD is removed, you may become pregnant. While the IUD is inserted, you shouldn’t be able to feel it, even during intercourse. But if you do, or if it comes out, your doctor can reinsert it.

Some women have experienced more painful menstrual cramps with the IUD. But for women who have extremely heavy, painful periods, the IUD can actually help. When your body realizes that no egg has been fertilized that month, it sheds the lining of the uterus — which results in you getting your period. When you use an IUD with the progesterone hormone, the hormone keeps the uterus lining thin, so eventually, there is nothing to shed.

Who Should Not Use an IUD?

If you have uterine anomalies, a pelvic infection or undiagnosed vaginal bleeding, it is important to discuss your options with your gynecologist or physician.

Protecting Against Birth Control, Not STDs

An essential point to remember is that IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, which are on the rise. If you decide to get an IUD, you still need to practice safe sex by using condoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, an IUD does not increase the risk of a pelvic inflammatory disease after the first few weeks of insertion.

If you’re looking for a type of birth control that is reliable and needs minimum attention, talk with your doctor about the IUD.

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At Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, the physicians recognize that each woman has unique healthcare needs. Our team of highly skilled professionals — with advanced training and specialization in women's healthcare — is here to address your individual needs and concerns. From well-woman care to obstetrics to minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, we are here to provide the caring and expert care you deserve.

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