Inside Scoop About IUDs

By Sophie Dila

If you’ve ever browsed Beforeplay’s birth control method selector, then you know you have plenty of options when it comes to preventing pregnancy. Since the IUD is the most popular birth control choice for female medical professionals, aka the experts, we want to break it down for you, dispel some myths and offer up some facts about the IUD.

First, what is the IUD?

The Intrauterine Device or IUD is a small t-shaped device that is placed by a health care professional into the uterus, where it remains and works to prevents pregnancy for up to 12 years, depending on which one you chose. And if you decide you’re ready to get pregnant, you can have it removed with a quick visit with your health care professional.

The IUD is one of the most highly effective methods to prevent pregnancy, available for adolescent and adult women. But, you might ask yourself, aren’t all birth control methods effective? They are – but IUDs (and implants) have one thing other methods don’t: place it, and forget it…no every-day pill, one-a-month ring or every three months shot. With an over 99% rate of effectiveness, it’s basically impossible to get pregnant while using this method. I don’t know about you, but I like those odds. The IUD is covered by most insurance providers, and you may be able to get one for free at a family health clinic.

I’ve hear some people think the IUD is scary!

As someone who currently has (and loves!) the IUD, I really do understand the worries and fears about getting an IUD. I did my fair share of research before deciding to take the plunge with this option. I read scary stories about the IUD falling out or getting lodged into the side of the uterus. I wondered if the string would poke and hurt my guy. I heard from friends that the insertion process could be really painful, and to be honest, it was, but going through those 2 minutes of discomfort during the insertion procedure was so worth it.

So many benefits!

The more I talked to my medical provider and learned about the IUD, the more I understood that this was truly an incredible and somewhat revolutionary option (I’ll get to that later) for so many reasons. The benefits are tough to beat! Once the IUD is inserted, you never have to think about birth control again! After years of taking the birth control pill every day at the same time, that sounded good. It’s the most cost effective form of birth control for the individual using it and in terms of healthcare resources. We also know that the major reason for unintended pregnancy is misuse or failure to use contraception, and unlike the condom or pull out method, it’s impossible to mess up the use of the IUD during sex. It’s there doing it’s job of preventing pregnancy day in and day out while you’re there getting frisky, free of worry of getting pregnant. Now, that’s teamwork! The IUD is a great contraception choice for women who cannot or do not want to use estrogen, because the hormone used in four of the five IUDs is the synthetic Progestin. Also, unlike other forms of birth control, the chances of becoming pregnant while using this method remains the same over time — practically zero.

Let’s take a closer look:

 

Paragard

The only hormone-free IUD available, the Paragard is a t-shaped copper device. The fact that it’s copper creates an environment in the uterus that is inhospitable to sperm. Once inserted, this IUD is effective up to 12 years!

Total amounts of hormone: Zero

Prevents pregnancy for up to 12 years

Size: 32 mm horizontal, 36 mm vertical

 

Mirena

Slightly smaller than Paragard, Mirena is an IUD that releases the synthetic hormone Progestin, which thickens cervical mucus and blocks sperm. Most women experience lighter periods, and around 25% of women lose periods altogether while using this IUD.

Total amounts of hormone: 52 mg of progestin

Prevents pregnancy for up to 7 years

Size: 32 mm horizontal, 32 mm vertical

 

Skyla

Even smaller than the Mirena, Skyla is another IUD that releases the hormone Progestin, in a slightly lower dose, with the same great sperm-blocking effect. The fact that it’s smaller should make the insertion process less uncomfortable, especially for women who have never had a child.

Total amounts of hormone: 13.5 mg of progestin

Prevents pregnancy for up to 3 years

Size: 28 mm horizontal, 30 mm vertical

 

Liletta

Just like Mirena and Skyla, Liletta is a hormonal IUD that releases Progestin in the uterus, and also a little bit into the bloodstream, which prevents ovulation. This IUD should make your period lighter, and around 20% of women lose their period soon after placement.

Total amounts of hormone: 52 mg of progestin

Prevents pregnancy for up to 5 years

Size: 32 mm horizontal, 32 mm vertical

 

Kyleena

Kyleena is the newest IUD on the market, released in October 2016. Kyleena also releases the hormone Progestin in the uterus, and it’s slightly smaller with a narrower inserter, so this IUD should be less uncomfortable to insert for women who have not given birth.

Total amounts of hormone: 19.5 mg of progestin

Prevents pregnancy for up to 5 years

Size: 28 mm horizontal, 30 mm vertical

 

Side effects of the IUD

As with any medication or medical device, the IUD has potential side effects. Common ones include irregular light spotting or heavier bleeding in the first 6 months, but then periods may become shorter or completely stop. Some women experience bloating, back pain or pelvic cramping shortly after insertion, which typically subsides after the first couple weeks or months. But if you know what to expect, these are typically really manageable.

The most serious side effect reported is uterine perforation, an extremely rare occurrence when the IUD punctures the uterus at the time of placement of the IUD. If that happens, and that’s a huge if, the medical provider will stop the insertion and usually recommend the woman return in a week after the perforation has healed to have another IUD inserted if she wants. To put things in perspective, consider this: a woman in the U.S. aged 20-39 is over 10 times more likely to have a stroke than to experience uterine perforation. Women in that age range are not in a risk category for stroke, much less so for uterine perforation.

Bottom line, you may experience side effects after placement of the IUD, but they will usually go away in anywhere from a few hours to a couple months, and then you can enjoy the benefits of the IUD. Your cycle should return to normal soon after the IUD is removed. These days, women who use the IUD report the greatest satisfaction with the IUD versus other contraceptive methods out there.

It’s a Revolution, people!

Why revolutionary? Well, the IUD has been around for almost 100 years now, and it’s vastly evolved over time. Your mom might remember horror stories about the Dalkon Shield, an IUD that was removed from the market in the 1970s for numerous reports of causing infection, injury, miscarriage and death. There is understandable fear left over from that time period, but since then, IUD technology has gone through a revolution from it’s darker days. Today, there are five tested, trusted and safe options on the market, and Ob-Gyns regularly recommend IUDs as the #1 choice to prevent pregnancy for adolescent and adult women. Plus, the new IUD models keep getting smaller and smaller. We’ve come a long way!

Remember, IUDs do not offer protection against STIs, so be sure to use a condom consistently and correctly every time you have sex until you and your partner are both tested and ready to commit to that next level of trust.

For more info on IUDs and to hear real stories, visit Beforeplay.org, and talk to your health care provider to determine which birth control option is the right one for you.