What is an IUD?
An IUD is a small, T-shaped device that is made from a flexible plastic and is used to prevent pregnancy. There are three kinds of IUDs. The ParaGard IUD contains copper and the Mirena and Skyla IUDs contains the hormone progestin. The ParaGard IUD can be used as an emergency birth control if it is inserted within the first 5 days after unprotected sex.
|Brand and Duration of Protection
|Mirena - 5 years
||Lighter periods, periods may be irregular or stop altogether, decreased cramping
|Paragard - 10 years
||No hormones, contains copper
||Heavier periods, increased cramping
|Skyla - NOT OFFERED at UHS - lasts 3 years
||Lighter periods, periods may be irregular
How does it work?
IUDs are inserted in a woman’s uterus by a health care provider to protect against pregnancy. All IUDs affect the way sperm move to prevent the sperm from joining with an egg and fertilizing it. IUDs also change the lining of the uterus, which is thought to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus.
The progestin hormone in the Mirena and Skyla IUD prevents pregnancy by keeping a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation). If there are no eggs for the sperm to fertilize, then pregnancy cannot happen. Progestin also thickens a woman’s cervical mucus to help block sperm from entering the uterus and joining an egg.
How effective is it?
IUDs are one of the most effective methods of birth control. Less than 1 out of 100 women using IUDs will get pregnant each year.
What are the benefits of using IUDs?
- While the initial cost may seem expensive, over time IUDs are the least expensive and longest lasting method of birth control.
- ParaGard works for 10 years. Mirena works for 5 years. Skyla works for 3 years.
- You do not have to remember to take it every day/week/month or every time you have sex.
- An IUD is a good option for women who cannot use estrogen or women who are breastfeeding.
- The ParaGard IUD (copper) does not affect your hormone levels.
- The Mirena IUD (progestin) may reduce cramps and make your period lighter. For some women, periods may stop altogether.
- Your ability to become pregnant quickly returns after the IUD is removed.
What are the downsides of using it?
- Infection: IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Risk of infection is higher within the first 20 days after insertion.
- Mild to moderate pain; you may have cramps and backache for a few days after the IUD is inserted.
- Perforation: When an IUD is inserved, it may push through the wall of the uterus,but this is uncommon (less than 1%).
- Spotting between periods for the first 3-6 months.
- The IUD may slip out of the uterus, either partially or completely; this is called expulsion. If it comes out even a little bit, it must be removed. If the IUD slips out, pregnancy can happen.
How do I check my IUD?
You should check your IUD every month to make sure it has not slipped out. An IUD is most likely to slip out of place during your period. IUDs have strings attached to them. Between periods you can check for the strings:
- Wash your hands.
- Sit or squat down.
- Put your index or middle finger up into your vagina until you touch the cervix.
- Feel for the string ends that should be coming through. If you find them, then the IUD is in place and working.
- If the strings feel longer or shorter than before, or you feel the hard, plastic part of the IUD against your cervix, the IUD may have moved.
- If the IUD has slipped out or moved, do not try to put it back in place on your own. Be sure to use a back-up method of birth control until you see your health care provider.
Where can I get an IUD?
A ParaGard or Mirena IUD must be inserted by a trained health care provider in a doctor’s office or clinic. Your health care provider can help you decide if an IUD is right for you. The ParaGard costs around $700 upfront and lasts up to 10 years. The Mirena costs around $850 upfront and lasts up to 5 years. UHS does not offer Skyla but costs would be similar to Mirena.
During insertion, your clinician will:
- Put a speculum into your vagina
- Cleanse the area with antibacterial solution to minimize the chance of infection
- Put an instrument on your cervix to stabilize it; this will cause cramping
- Put an instrument into your uterus to measure its depth
- Insert the IUD
You should check your IUD once per month (ie. after you have your period) to make sure it is still in place.
You should not use an IUD if you:
- have or may have a current sexually transmitted infection or other pelvic infection
- think you might be pregnant
- have cervical or uterine cancer
- have unexplained vaginal bleeding
- are or may be allergic to copper (ParaGard IUD only)
Where can I get more information?
For more information about IUDs, talk to yourhealth care provider. You can also get reliable information from the following websites:
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
Disclaimer: This document is for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Talk with your health care provider if you have questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options.