IUD (Intrauterine Device) Contraception

An IUD, or intrauterine device, provides effective pregnancy protection (over 99 percent effectiveness). The IUD is a T-shaped plastic or copper device that sits inside a woman’s uterus. It is placed into the uterus by an OB/GYN during a short office visit.

The IUD has strings attached near the end that hang through the cervix into the vagina, allowing the wearer to confirm it is in place and making it easier for the doctor to remove it. The strings are unnoticeable during sex or when looking at the vulva. The IUD does not prevent infection by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Types of IUDs

Comprehensive Women’s Health Center places the Liletta IUD, which consists of the same pharmaceutical composition as the Mirena IUD. This IUD releases a small amount of the hormone progestin into the uterus every day. The hormone thickens cervical mucus and keeps sperm from reaching the egg for fertilization. According to the FDA, Liletta can be used for up to three years before requiring replacement.

The Liletta IUD may also reduce menstrual cramping and bleeding. At least half of users of hormonal IUDs will report light periods. Twenty percent may report they no longer have a period at all. During the first three to six months of use, women may have irregular bleeding and daily spotting but this typically improves over time.

CWHC also offers the copper IUD (ParaGard), which is a non-hormonal IUD option. The copper creates an environment inside of the uterus that destroys sperm. ParaGard can be used for up to 10 years. It does not change the timing of menstrual cycles, but some women may have more cramping or heavier bleeding with periods.

IUD safety and effectiveness

IUDs may be an ideal form of birth control for many women because, unlike birth control pills, they don’t require any action on a daily basis. IUDs are also safe and successful in preventing pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control defines the failure rate of a contraception method as the percentage of women who get pregnant within the first year while using it. That rate for hormonal IUDs is 0.2 percent and 0.8 percent for copper IUDs.

As with any medication or prescription, there is some risk associated with the IUD. Although these are rare, risks should be discussed with an OB/GYN. Rarely, in about 1 out of 1,000 insertion procedures, the IUD perforates the uterus (pokes into or through the muscle wall of the uterus). If this happens, the IUD must be removed, which can require surgery. An IUD may also fall out of the uterus without the woman knowing, increasing the chance of pregnancy.

There is some correlation between the hormonal IUD and increased chance of ovarian cysts. However, these are generally harmless and clear up on their own. The hormonal IUD may rarely result in similar side effects caused by the oral birth control pill such as headaches, acne and mood swings. These types of side effects usually clear after the first few months.

Early versions of the IUD developed in the 1970s presented severe and sometimes life-threatening problems, making the devices very unpopular. However, modern IUDs are safe, effective and convenient for almost all women, including teens and women who have never had a child.

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Long-acting birth control, minimal cost

Due to a grant from a national foundation, CWHC now offers long-term contraceptive methods for very little cost.