You’ve narrowed down your birth control choices to an intrauterine device (IUD). An IUD is a great selection for women who want long-term, safe, and effective birth control without the need for frequent follow-up doctor appointments or daily pills.
Your doctor inserts the IUD — a tiny T-shaped plastic device — into your uterus. Its presence negatively affects sperm and thins out your uterine lining so that you can’t sustain a pregnancy.
The IUD stays put, without any need for maintenance, until it’s time to change it or until you want to become pregnant. While in place, it’s 99% effective against pregnancy. All you have to do is check the thread that hangs from your uterus once a month to ensure that the IUD is still in place.
However, even after you’ve chosen an IUD, you still have one other choice to make. Should it be an IUD that releases hormones? Or one that doesn’t? What are the pros and cons of each?
At Mian OB/GYN & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, our caring and knowledgeable OB/GYN, Dr. Rafiq Mian, helps you find the right IUD for your needs. If you’re considering an IUD as your birth control device, following are a few things to know about which is best for you.
Copper IUDs don’t use hormones
The Paragard® IUD is, like all IUDs, a small and flexible piece of plastic that your doctor inserts into your uterus. Unlike other brands, however, Paragard doesn’t release hormones that affect ovulation.
All IUDs irritate the lining of your uterus so that it can’t grow thick enough to nourish a baby. But Paragard has another mechanism to prevent pregnancy: It’s wrapped in copper wires that release ions to destabilize sperm.
Sperm are negatively affected by the copper wire’s ions and lose their ability to move effectively. In particular, they’re less able to penetrate an egg, which is required for fertilization to take place.
The Paragard IUD is also made in the United States. Each IUD is hand-wrapped with copper threads. Paragard can stay in place for 10 years before your doctor removes and replaces it.
When you’re ready to get pregnant, all you need to do is have your doctor remove it. It’s possible to get pregnant during that same cycle because the Paragard IUD doesn’t affect your hormones.
Hormonal IUDs have extra benefits
As long as you don’t have a medical condition that would make hormonal IUDs unsafe, you might find that these options serve more than one need. Hormonal IUDs release progestin, which stops you from ovulating altogether.
If your periods tend to be heavy or painful, or if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hormonal IUDs can alleviate many of your symptoms. You might choose a hormonal IUD if you struggle with:
- Weight gain
- Facial hair
- Scalp hair loss
The IUDs that release the hormone progestin — Mirena®, Kyleena®, Liletta®, and Skyla® — also affect sperm’s ability to reach or penetrate an egg. They’re not quite as long-lasting as a copper IUD and must be replaced more frequently:
- Mirena —in place for up to 8 years
- Liletta — up to 8 years
- Kyleena — up to 5 years
- Skyla — up to 3 years
Your doctor must always insert and remove an IUD for you.
Some IUDs act as emergency contraception
If you delayed your IUD insertion and in the meantime had unprotected sex, a copper IUD can act as emergency contraception. Because the copper ions affect sperm movement and capabilities, the IUD can prevent conception.
The only two hormonal IUDs that act as emergency contraception are Mirena and Liletta. Any of the three IUD choices must be inserted within five days of unprotected intercourse. They’re 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Are you ready for an IUD? Set up your birth control consultation by calling us or using our online form to book an STI and STD screening today.