According to the World Health Organization (WHO), family planning allows couples to plan and space their children’s birth. Thanks to contraceptive methods, pregnancies are more planned, and there is some control over procreation.  Today, 842 million women of childbearing age have access to contraceptive methods, of which 75.7% have access to modern contraceptive methods. (1)

There are many methods of contraception, and their effectiveness depends on the type of method. Among the most effective contraceptive methods are the Intrauterine Devices (IUDs). Despite this, many women are still very little educated about this type of contraception.

This article will talk about IUDs and answer the following questions:  What is an IUD? ? What are the types of IUDs?  How does it work? Does it hurt to get an IUD? How effective is an IUD?  What are the benefits, disadvantages, and side effects of IUDs?

What is an IUD?

It is a small flexible,  T-shaped device of about 3 centimeters inserted into the uterus through the vagina to prevent pregnancy.
There are two types of IUD:

  • Non-hormonal Copper-based IUD; ParaGard. It can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years after insertion.
  • Hormonal IUD. Hormonal IUDs contain a progestin hormone(levonorgestrel). There are four hormonal IUDs available in the US: Liletta (6 years), Kyleena  (5 years), Mirena  (5 years), and Skyla  (3 years).

How do IUDs work?

The copper IUD prevents fertilization by creating an inflammatory reaction that damages the sperm and prevents it from meeting the egg.
The hormonal IUD slowly releases the progestin that thickens the cervical mucus, prevents sperm progression, and reduces survival chances. It also alters the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilized egg from implantation. This device makes menstruation less abundant and is an excellent option for women with heavy periods who want contraception.

Does it hurt to get an IUD?

A trained health professional is required to insert an IUD.  It is usually done during an office visit, in a few minutes.  During and after the insertion, some women may experience pain, bleeding, cramps,  pinching, and dizziness.  In these cases, the healthcare provider will ask you to lie down for a few minutes until you feel better. Once in place, normally, you should not be able to feel the device.
A check-up appointment  4 to 6 weeks after insertion is recommended to ensure that the IUD is still in place.
If signs of discomfort persist several days after insertion,  contact your doctor for a better assessment.

How effective are the IUDs?

IUDs are among the most effective and fully reversible contraceptives— more than 99% effective. Hormonal IUDs are slightly more effective than copper-based ones: 0.7 versus 0.8 pregnancies per 100 women per year as commonly used. (1)

What are the benefits of IUDs?

  • One of the major advantages of IUDs is that the effectiveness does not vary depending on the use. Indeed, there is no risk of making a mistake. You cannot forget to take it (like the pill) or misuse it (like condoms). It works daily until the removal and offers protection for an extended period (3 years minimum to 10 years).
  • The copper IUD does not prevent ovulating and ensures an immediate return of fertility as soon as the device is removed.
  • The copper IUD can also be used as an emergency contraception. It is up to 99.9 percent effective to prevent pregnancy if inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex.
  • IUDs are safe to use as birth control after childbirth as they do not interfere with breastfeeding.
  • Hormonal IUDs can help relieve menstrual pain and heavy periods.

What are the disadvantages of IUDs?

  • Unlike pills, you cannot stop overnight. When you are ready to conceive, it requires medical assistance to remove the IUD.
  • There is also discomfort or pain at the time of the insertion.
  • IUDs don’t offer any protection against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
  • There is a risk of expulsion of the IUD. When it happens, it usually during the periods. It is then important to learn how to check the device every month after the periods.

You can check your IUD by putting your finger into your vagina until you touch your cervix. You should be able to feel the string ends. Make sure your hands are clean before doing it. If you cannot locate the IUD, call your doctor for an appointment and use an alternative form of contraception in the meantime.

What are the side effects of IUDs?

  • During the first few weeks of use, some women experience vaginal bleeding (spotting) between periods.
  • IUDs can increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
  • IUD also puts you at a slightly higher risk of infection like bacterial vaginosis.
  • Women who have IUD are more likely to have an infection in the vaginal area that spreads to the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries and lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (P.I.D). This is a severe disease that can damage the genitals and cause infertility. (3)
  • Cases of perforation of the uterine wall have also been linked to IUDs.
  • ParaGard may make your periods heavier, and your menstrual cramps worse.
  • Hormonal IUD may make your periods irregular.
  • Side effects such as unusual headaches, acne, weight gain, breast tenderness, lumps in the breast are possible with hormonal IUDs.

Key Points

  •   IUDs are small, T-shaped devices that are inserted into the uterus through the vagina to prevent pregnancy.
  • IUDs are among the most effective contraceptive methods.
  • There are two types of IUD: Cooper IUD, which works up 10 years, and Hormonal IUD, which work 3 to 6 years.
  •  Some women may experience some cramping, pain, bleeding, and dizziness during the IUD insertion.
  • You should check if your IUD is still in place after your periods in the first few months following the insertion.
  • Despite their effectiveness, IUDs have side effects. The side effects may vary depending on the type of the IUD.

References

  1. https://www.who.int/fr/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/family-planning-contraception
  2. https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2018-12-19/most-common-contraceptive-methods-for-women#:~:text=Researchers%20measured%20use%20among%20more%20than%205%2C500%20women,implants%20and%20intrauterine%20devices%20%E2%80%93%20and%20male%20condoms
  3. https://14wub23xi2gmhufxjmvfmt1d-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/PARAGARD-PI.pdf
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About the Author

Hermione M.

My name is Hermione. I am the founder of WomenH and I write about women's health, wellness, mental health, and personal growth. I created this platform to inspire women to take care of themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally to become their best selves. Thank you for stopping by.

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