Once upon a time, a woman’s best source for birth control was the pill. However, as reliable as the pill can be, it certainly has its issues, not to mention the task of having one more thing to remember to do every single day. Today, women have many choices in their method of birth control and among those choices is the ever so popular IUD method.
IUD (or Intrauterine Device) is a small T-shaped plastic device that is placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The device is set in place by an OB/GYN and a plastic string is attached to the end to ensure correct placement and for removal. While most IUDs ensure protection from pregnancy for up to five years, they can be removed by an OB/GYN if a woman decides she would like to become pregnant sooner. Placing an IUD is a quick procedure that can be done in the doctor’s office and usually takes about 5-10 minutes. While some women claim to have no pain whatsoever, many women do experience cramping and dizziness upon insertion. Once the IUD is placed, all normal activities can be resumed.
Currently, there are two different types of IUDs available in the United States; the copper IUD and the hormonal IUD. Each type works in its own way to prevent pregnancy and each has its own list of pros and cons.
The copper IUD allows a small amount of copper to be released into the uterus preventing sperm from being able to go into the egg by immobilizing the sperm on the way to the fallopian tubes. If by chance an egg does become fertilized, implantation is prevented. Unlike hormonal IUDs, copper IUDs typically do not affect a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Hormonal IUDs allow a small amount of progestin (or a similar hormone depending on the brand) to be released into the uterus. These hormones work to thicken cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to enter the cervix. The hormones additionally slow down the growth of the uterine lining making it difficult for fertilized eggs to survive. Many women using the hormonal IUD report changes in their menstrual cycle including a decrease in bleeding and in some case having no cycle at all.
Sounds like a miracle right? Well before you rush off to book your appointment, let’s take closer a look at the pros and cons of using as IUD.
- A woman using an IUD is protected from pregnancy for up to five years without the need to remember to take a pill every day.
- IUDs start working right away and can be removed at any time (by a doctor).
- IUDs in comparison to long-term pill use are relatively inexpensive.
- IUDs can be inserted 6 weeks after the delivery of a baby.
- Women who use a copper IUD after childbirth can breastfeed safely.
- An IUD is not felt by a woman or her partner during intercourse.
- Women who cannot use birth control pills due to medical conditions may be able to use an IUD.
- Many women experience less menstrual blood loss and pain with hormonal IUDs.
- A doctor must insert and remove an IUD.
- Serious complications from IUD use (though rare) can occur.
- IUDs come out during the first year of use in about 5% of women who use them.
- If an IUD is expelled unnoticed, a woman may easily become pregnant.
- If pregnancy occurs while an IUD is still in place, the risk of miscarriage is 50% greater.
- An IUD may puncture the wall of the uterus when it is inserted. This occurs in 1-3 of 1,000 insertions.
- Cramping and backache may occur in the first few hours after an IUD is placed. Bleeding may occur for a couple of weeks after an IUD is placed.
- Some women have increased menstrual pain and heavy periods while using the copper IUD, but these symptoms are decreased in those using the hormonal IUD.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease is possible with IUD use.
- Like most birth control methods, IUD’s do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
While sorting through your pros and cons list also keep in mind that regardless of your preference, there are some women who should avoid using an IUD as their method of birth control. These women include:
- Women who have abnormal bleeding, cancer of the cervix or cancer of the uterus.
- Women who have had pelvic inflammatory disease or other STD’s within the past 12 months.
- Women with increased susceptibility to infections, such as those with leukemia or HIV.
- Women with abnormalities of the cervix, uterus, or ovaries.
- Women that are allergic to copper, are having heat treatments, or who have Wilson disease.
So talk to your partner and then talk to your doctor. Before deciding on an IUD, make certain your OB/GYN is aware of all medical history, both past and present. Birth control is a personal choice for every woman so weigh all of your options before you decide on which one is best for you.