What You Need To Know Before You Get An IUD

You may be considering an IUD for many reasons. The first being that you are not ready to have a child. You’ve probably tried or at least excluded other types of birth control and have settled on an IUD as the method of birth control that will work best for you. IUDs have pros and cons and before you go ahead with the procedure to have an IUD put in, read up on these facts about IUDs.

What Is An IUD?

IUD stands for intrauterine device and it fits inside of your uterus. An IUD works by stopping sperm from meeting the fertilized eggs, thus preventing pregnancy. IUDs have become a popular birth control method as they take away human error that still is present with other forms of birth control. If you use condoms, you may be really good at it, but if you have one cavalier night, you could end up pregnant. Birth control pills are highly effective as well but the pills need to be taken at a specific time every day and if you miss, you could also find yourself pregnant.

gynecologist communicates with her patient, pointing to the structure of the uterus, on her comput er.
Credit: iStock

How Is An IUD Different?

There is nothing to remember with an IUD, which makes it a great option if you’re someone whose track record of using birth control is iffy. Because human error is removed from the process with an IUD, they are over 99% effective. An IUD is ineffective if it has shifted or fallen out but his happens very rarely as is evidenced by the high success rate. It’s harder to tell if an IUD has shifted, but if it’s fallen out, you will be able to see it. In the event that it has fallen out, you should use a backup method of birth control until it is placed back in.

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What Are The Different Types Of IUDs?

There are 5 brands of IUD that are currently available for use in the United States: Paragard, Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla. Paragard is a copper IUD and the rest are hormonal IUDs. Paragard protects against pregnancy because sperm don’t like copper and the metallic material serves as a deterrent for them to reach the egg. The others release a hormone that is similar to the hormones found in birth control pills. The hormone thickens your cervical mucus making it hard for sperm to reach and can also stop you from ovulating which means that there is no egg for sperm to fertilize.

How Long Is An IUD Effective?

The number of years that an IUD will protect you from pregnancy ranges from 3 to 12 years with Skyla being the shortest and Paragard being the longest. When Paragard, the copper IUD is used, it starts to work immediately, but like with other forms of birth control, the hormonal IUDs need some time for the hormones to be released before they can start to protect you against pregnancy. Similar to the pill, if you have one put in during your period, you will be protected, but if you have it put in any other time, you should use a backup method.

What Is The Cost Of An IUD?

IUDs can cost up to $1,300 but don’t let that number scare you if you’re seriously considering getting one. Like most forms of birth control, an IUD is likely to be covered by your insurance and your cost may be as low as $0, depending on the type of IUD that you choose.

T shaped IUD isolated on white
Credit: iStock

IUDs Don't Protect Against STIs or STDs

Like most forms of birth control that aren’t condoms, IUDs do not protect against STIs or STDs so the IUD is best suited for someone that is in a committed relationship with one person. Also like other forms of birth control, the IUD is completely reversible. If you decide that you want to become pregnant, you don’t have to wait until the number of years that your IUD is effective expires, you just have to visit your doctor and have it removed.

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What Are The Side Effects Of An IUD?

Depending on the type of IUD that you get, you may experience lighter or heavier periods. The copper IUD doesn’t have hormones, which some women may consider a positive thing but it is also known to make menstruation worse. The hormonal IUDs do have hormones, which may be seen as a negative thing but they are known to make menstruation lighter if you are someone that suffers from heavy or painful periods.

Does It Hurt To Get An IUD?

Getting an IUD inserted shouldn’t be too painful but the level of discomfort or pain you feel will vary by each individual. The most common pain experienced is cramping at the time of insertion and shortly after. You may also experience some spotting in the beginning. For the most part, any health care provider that is able to perform a gynecological exam for you will able to put in an IUD for you. If you have a gynecologist that you see every year, you can talk to them in more detail about their process. If you don’t have a regular gynecologist, you can also visit a place like Planned Parenthood or a similar clinic dedicated to women’s health and family planning.

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