IUD (Intrauterine Device) Birth Control

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are small, T-shaped plastic devices implanted into the uterus to prevent sperms from reaching the egg after a sexual intercourse. Intrauterine devices are one of the most effective birth controls. Learn more about the types of IUDs, their benefits and risks.

Last Updated: 22 October 2020

IUD (Intrauterine Device) Birth Control
IUD (Intrauterine Device) Birth Control
What are IUDs?

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are small, T-shaped plastic devices that are implanted into your uterus by an OB, after a pelvic examination. They come under Long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs). LARCs are highly effective birth control methods. They provide contraceptive measures for several years and can be withdrawn anytime for future pregnancies or for other reasons.

What are the types of IUDs? ·         Copper Intrauterine Device

Copper IUDs release copper into the uterus which interferes with the movement of sperms and prevents them from reaching the egg. It must be replaced after 10 years of use.

·         Hormonal Intrauterine Device

Hormonal IUDs are similar to copper IUDs. They release a hormone called as progestin into the uterus. Progestin makes the cervical mucus thicker, thus preventing the sperms to easily flow through the reproductive tract. It also makes the uterine lining thinner, preventing conception. It needs to be replaced every 3-5 years.

How do IUDs act as birth control?

When a woman having an intrauterine device inserted in her uterus has intercourse, sperms deposited on her vagina will be blocked from moving towards her uterus. In the case of copper IUD, copper chemically reacts with the semen composition and prevents the sperms from moving towards the egg. Hormonal IUDs alter the hormonal levels, making the vaginal fluid thick in which sperms lose their mobility. In some women, the altered hormonal levels prevent ovulation, that is, the release of egg from the ovary is blocked, thus presenting no egg for fertilization.

How is an IUD implanted?

A doctor will do a pelvic examination after listening to the medical history. The woman will have to lie down on a hospital bed. A low dose of local anesthesia may be administered to make the vagina and cervix regions numb during IUD insertion. The doctor then inserts the IUD inside the vagina, through the cervix and into the uterus. The complete procedure takes around 5 minutes.

If on a numbing medicine during the procedure, the woman would not feel any pain. If medicine for numbing is not given, there can be a mild to sharp pain or cramping-like sensation during the insertion though it will subside within minutes after it is done.

What are the benefits of IUDs?

Intrauterine devices are most recommended for birth control because of their following benefits:

·         High efficiency:  IUDs have consistently proved high effectiveness of 99%, which means that with an IUD on, you can have sex without having to take additional care to prevent pregnancy.

·         Long-term protection: IUDs don’t require frequent usage-check or consultation with doctors. Copper IUDs must be replaced only once in 10 years while hormonal IUDs needs a change once every 3-5 years.

·         Convenient use: Unlike condoms which has to be worn after erection at the time of having sex and pills which have to be taken within a few hours or days after sex, , IUDs need only one-time implantation after which one can forget about getting pregnant for several years.

·         Reversible: The fond advantage of IUDs is that it doesn’t permanently sterilize the user. Anytime, one wants to reverse the birth control and prepare for pregnancy, IUDs can be easily removed without any hassles. And, most often, after removal of IUDs, conception happens almost immediately or within a couple of menstrual cycles.

·         Works well even as an emergency contraception: Copper IUDs can be used as an emergency contraception for up to a certain number of days after an unprotected sex.

What are the side effects of using IUDs?

IUDs are safe but is commonly associated with heavy menstrual bleeding and abdominal pain in the first few months. The symptoms gradually fade out after the initial use.

What are the risks of IUDs?

In general, there are no risks of using an intrauterine device as birth control. In rare cases, IUDs may cause pelvic inflammatory disease. There is a low-level chance risk of ectopic pregnancy while using IUDs. It must be noted that while IUDs are effective in preventing pregnancy, they do not give protection against sexually transmitted devices. In order to get protection against STDs, the use of a condom is recommended.

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