Everything You Need to Know About IUDs

There are many different forms of birth control available today, and it can sometimes be hard to know the difference between them, how they work, and which one is best for you. One of the most popular varieties of birth control are IUDs. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about IUDs, including how they work, how effective they are, and potential side effects. First, what exactly are IUDs?

What Are IUDs?
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are small, T-shaped devices that are used as a form of birth control. This device is placed in the uterus and is a long-term way to prevent pregnancy—devices can last between 3-10 years. IUDs are also reversible and can be removed at any time, offering women both effective and flexible birth control.

How Do IUDs Work?
IUDs work by affecting the way sperm move in the uterus, which prevents them from reaching the egg. If sperm can’t reach the egg, fertilization cannot happen and you cannot get pregnant. There are two main types of IUDs, and each kind has its own method for blocking fertilization.

The first type of IUDs are copper IUDs. These are often referred to by the brand name—Paragard. Copper IUDs work by killing sperm and, therefore, preventing fertilization. Copper IUDs have a small amount of copper wrapped around the stem of the device, and copper is able to kill sperm as they travel toward the egg.

Copper IUDs can also be used as a form of emergency contraception, which works by the copper in the IUD preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus.

The other type of IUDs are hormonal IUDs. There are four main brands of hormonal IUDs: Skyla, Kyleena, Liletta, and Mirena. These IUDs work by releasing a small amount of progestin—a synthetic version of the progesterone hormone—each day. This thickens the mucus in the cervix, preventing sperm from reaching the egg and also impacting the ability of a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus.

Each IUD can be used as a long-term birth control option, but each option lasts for different amounts of time. Here’s how long each IUD can prevent pregnancy:

  • Paragard (copper IUD): Up to 10 years
  • Skyla (hormonal IUD): Up to 3 years
  • Kyleena (hormonal IUD): Up to 5 years
  • Liletta (hormonal IUD): Up to 7 years
  • Mirena (hormonal IUD): Up to 7 years

How Effective Are IUDs?
Both hormonal and copper IUDs are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. IUDs are one of the most effective forms of birth control when properly inserted because they don’t require any additional work, like remembering to take a pill, nor present risk of potentially using contraception incorrectly, like condoms.


IUD Insertion
IUDs are one of the most effective and flexible types of birth control, but they do require an initial appointment with a healthcare provider for insertion, which may be during your monthly period. Here’s what you can expect at the appointment:  

  • The healthcare provider will complete a pelvic examination to find the exact position of your uterus 
  • The healthcare provider will clean your cervix with an antiseptic solution
  • The healthcare provider will ‘sound’ your uterus or measure it by sliding a thin probe through the cervical canal into the uterus to measure the uterine cavity length
  • The provider will slide a plastic tube holding the IUD through your vagina and into your uterus
  • The IUD will be pushed into your uterus using a “plunger”
  • The tube will be removed, with two small strings left dangling outside the cervix within the vagina
  • The provider uses the strings to check that the IUD properly stays in position. Then, the strings are later used to remove the IUD when you are done with it—which should only be done by a healthcare provider. Women with IUDs typically can’t feel the strings once the IUD has been placed

Once the IUD is placed in your uterus, you will have long-term, maintenance-free birth control that you can choose to remove at any time.


Potential Side Effects of IUDs
Just like all other forms of birth control, there are potential side effects when using IUDs. These side effects vary depending on the woman and the type of IUD being used.

Insertion and removal side effects:

  • Pain and discomfort
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cramping and pain

Copper IUD (Paragard) side effects:

  • More bleeding and cramps during periods
  • Heavier periods
  • Irregular periods
  • Spotting between periods

Hormonal IUD (Skyla, Kyleena, Liletta, and Mirena) side effects:

  • Irregular periods
  • Spotting between periods
  • Can also have positive side effects like lighter periods, help with cramping and PMS, and can even lead to not getting your periods at all (which is normal and safe)

Overall, IUDs are a low-risk, zero-maintenance, long-term, and incredibly effective method of birth control. At MyAlly Health, we offer both hormonal and copper IUDs as options for your birth control. Normally, IUDs can cost thousands of dollars at other clinics, but at MyAlly they only cost between $250 and $1,000, depending on the brand. However, this method may even be free or lower cost for you, so ask us about our sliding-fee-scale!

MyAlly Health offers confidential reproductive health services to women and men in the Grand Forks, North Dakota area, regardless of income or age. This includes preventive care, like getting tested for STIs; annual examinations like Pap Smears, breast examinations, and pelvic examinations; determining the best birth control for you; and even getting vaccinated against the flu. The clinical services we provide are all performed by Nurse Practitioners and Resident Physicians. 

In order to empower and engage individuals in their well-being and reproductive health, MyAlly Health offers education, counseling, advocacy, and healthcare services. Find out more about what we do, help make a difference by donating to our cause, or schedule an appointment with us today!

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