An Intrauterine Device (IUD) is a very small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It is a highly effective, long-term, yet reversible, type of birth control.
How Does an IUD Work?
An IUD is a very small, flexible, plastic device in the shape of a T that is inserted into the uterus via the vagina. There are two types of IUD available, which include a hormonal IUD and a copper IUD.
A hormonal IUD releases progestin, a type of hormone like the hormone progesterone made naturally in the body, which prevents pregnancy. It works by thickening the mucus in the cervix to prevent sperm from reaching or fertilizing an egg, and thins the lining of the uterus, making it more difficult for an egg to implant itself. For some people, a hormone IUD may also prevent the release of an egg each month (ovulation). Depending on the type of hormonal IUD you have, it can prevent pregnancy for up to 3-7 years after insertion.
A copper IUD does not have any hormones but uses copper to prevent pregnancy. Copper alters the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg and survive. It can also prevent a fertilized egg from being able to implant itself in the uterus. A copper IUD can protect against pregnancy for approximately 5-10 years, depending on the type.
When can an IUD Be Inserted?
An IUD insertion is a quick procedure that can be carried out in your doctor’s office. It can be fitted at any point during your menstrual cycle, and you can often have it fitted immediately after delivering a baby or after a pregnancy termination. Back up contraception should be used for at least one week if an IUD is inserted more than 7 days after the start of your period.
An IUD can be inserted once your health care provider has evaluated your overall health and medical history and carried out a pelvic examination. You may also be screened for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) before insertion of the device.
What Is Involved?
The procedure can be uncomfortable and may cause cramping and dizziness for some women. Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, one to two hours before the procedure can help to reduce discomfort. You may be offered medication, such as a local anesthetic, to help open or numb your cervix before the IUD is inserted.
A speculum is inserted into the vagina to allow access through the cervix and into the uterus. Special instruments may be required to gently align the cervical canal and uterine cavity. The device is then placed inside an applicator tube which is inserted through the opening of the cervix and into the uterus. Once positioned, the applicator tube is removed, with the IUD remaining in place.
An IUD has two thin threads that hang down a little way into your vagina. Your health care provider will teach you how to feel for the threads to check that the IUD is in the correct place. This should be done regular intervals, such as after each period, to check it is still positioned correctly. If at any point you cannot feel the threads, or if you suspect the IUD has moved, you should contact your health care provider immediately to have it checked. If it has become displaced, it may need to be removed, and you may be at risk of pregnancy.
You may experience cramps and spotting after an IUD insertion, but this is usually only temporary. If you do experience ongoing pain or discomfort, signs of infection, such as a fever, unpleasant discharge, or any other unusual side effects, you should speak to your health care provider immediately.
Benefits of an IUD
There are many benefits of an IUD; the main benefits include:
- More than 99% effective protection against pregnancy
- A long-term contraceptive
- Preventing the need to interrupt sex for contraception
- It can be removed safely and easily at any time, and can be followed by a quick return to your normal fertility
- Copper IUD is hormone free
- Can be used while breast-feeding
- It may reduce/stop menstrual bleeding, pain, and other symptoms
- Some IUDs may reduce the risk of pelvic infection and endometrial cancer
Are There Risks?
Typically, an IUD is generally safe, but it isn’t the best solution for every woman. Some women may experience unpleasant side effects associated with an IUD such as persistent or irregular bleeding, heavier periods, breast tenderness, headaches, mood changes, or pelvic pain. Other risks can include:
- No protection against STIs.
- It may become displaced or expelled.
- If the IUD fails, you could become pregnant.
- Ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg becomes implanted outside of the uterus)
- Problems during insertion, such as perforation of the uterus.
Comprehensive Women’s Health Care in Illinois
If you would like to learn more about IUD insertions or other birth control options, contact Aishling Obstetrics & Gynecology. Our highly experienced board-certified gynecologists and obstetricians specialize in women’s health care needs and offer a broad range of services to promote optimal health and wellness.
To find out more about the services we offer, contact us at one of our convenient offices in Sandwich, Yorkville, Plainfield, and Aurora.