An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, flexible, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into the uterus, where it can remain for several years to prevent pregnancy. It can be removed earlier if the woman wants to try to get pregnant.
The IUD is the world's most popular long-acting reversible contraceptive method. Once the IUD is inserted, the woman does not need to worry about contraception until replacement is required. Some IUDs can also make a woman's menstrual cycle easier or stop them altogether.
Although IUDs are more than 99% safe and effective, they do not prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
This article explains how IUDs work, what brands are available, and how they differ.
How do IUDs work?
IUDs affect the movement of sperm, which in turn interferes with fertilization.
There are two kinds:
- Hormone- secreting IUDs thicken the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus.
- The copper IUD creates a toxic environment for sperm.
Each brand of Naval Forces is different. Most women can safely use either type, although there are some brand-by-brand exceptions.
Because IUDs are designed to protect against pregnancy for several years and can be removed at any time, they are considered a form of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC).
There are five brands of Naval Forces available in the US.
One, ParaGard, is a non-hormonal copper IUD. The other four, Kilina, Liletta, Mirena, and Skyla, work by releasing small amounts of levonorgestrel (a type of progestin hormone) over time.
These IUDs differ in size and the amount of hormone secreted (if applicable).
Expiration date: up to 10 years.
The ParaGard IUD (also called Copper T 380A) is the only hormone-free IUD on the US market. It is made of flexible plastic and wrapped in copper.
In some patients, the ParaGard IUD can cause longer and heavier periods. For this reason, it is not recommended for women with endometriosis or other conditions that cause heavy periods.
Because copper is toxic to sperm, ParaGard can be used for emergency contraception . In fact, when inserted within five days of unprotected sex, it can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 99.9%.
Expiration date: up to 6 years.
The Liletta IUD is made of soft, flexible plastic and contains 52 milligrams (mg) of the hormone levonorgestrel.
In 2019, the FDA approved Liletta for up to six years, making it the longest-lasting hormonal IUD on the market.
Liletta should not be used by women with endometriosis or at risk / history of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
If you've recently been pregnant, talk to your doctor about how long to wait before the Liletta IUD can be safely inserted.
Validity: up to five years
The Mirena IUD is made of flexible plastic and contains 52 mg of levonorgestrel. It is the largest and most durable of the three IUDs manufactured by Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals.
The Mirena IUD can reduce menstrual cramps. It has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of severe periods.
Validity: up to five years
Kyleena is also manufactured by Bayer. It is smaller than the Mirena IUD and contains 19.5 mg of levonorgestrel.
The Kyleena IUD is approved for use in all women, regardless of whether they have given birth or not. However, it is not recommended for women at risk or a history of pelvic inflammatory disease.
Validity: up to three years
Skyla contains 13.5 mg of levonorgestrel and is the lowest dose IUD available from Bayer.
Like the Kyleena IUD, Skyla is approved for use by women of all ages, regardless of whether they have given birth or not. It is not recommended for women with a history or risk of pelvic inflammatory disease.
Mirena is recommended for women who have had at least one child and who have no risk or history of ectopic pregnancy or pelvic inflammatory disease.
If you are considering an IUD for birth control, there are hormonal and non-hormonal options. Talk to your doctor about which of the five approved IUDs might work best for you based on your risk factors, individual preference, and uterine size.
Insertion of the IUD should be done by a qualified healthcare professional. You may be advised to take over-the-counter pain relievers before your visit to help ease any discomfort the procedure may cause.
In addition to considering the insertion process before beginning, your provider will need time to discuss the benefits, risks, alternatives, and expectations of the IUD. You will be asked to sign an informed consent form confirming that this information has been reviewed. Be sure to ask any questions you have now.
The doctor will check the size and position of your uterus by performing a bimanual exam. This is when they insert two fingers of one hand into the vagina and press the other on the abdomen.
The firmware takes about five minutes. The procedure follows the same general steps, regardless of the type of IUD used.
Here is an example of what happens during Kyleena insertion:
- The provider removes the inserter with the attached IUD from the sterile package. They then press a button on the instrument to bend the arms of the IUD into a long, thin tube.
- The tube containing the IUD is inserted into the vagina and moved into the uterus.
- The provider will move the instrument button again, this time in a different direction, to put the IUD in place. After exiting the tube in the correct position, the shoulders of the IUD open in a T-shape.
- The strings attached to the bottom of the IUD are cut.
Some women experience cramps when the uterus adjusts to receive the IUD. This usually lasts for a few days, but can last three to six months. The spasms should decrease with time, rest, and / or pain relievers.
You may also have bleeding and spotting for the first few days after administration.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a rare complication after IUD insertion. Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms of PID:
- Pain in the lower abdominal area
- Unusual vaginal discharge or a bad smell
- A burning sensation when urinating.
When can I have sex after I have an IUD inserted?
Talk to your doctor about how soon you can safely resume sex after the IUD is inserted.
The non-hormonal copper IUD, ParaGuard, is effective immediately.
However, hormonal IUDs must be inserted at specific points in your cycle for them to take effect immediately. If they are not given within a week of your period, you may need to use a different method of birth control for about a week after administration to avoid pregnancy.
Like other medical devices, the IUD must slide or stick out. Most pregnancies occur when the IUD has slipped out of place without your noticing.
It's important to pay attention to your IUD, especially in the first few months of use and during your period (when your cervix is most open).
You can do this by looking at your sanitary pads or tampons to see if your IUD has fallen out.
You can also feel the strings between periods. However, never grasp or pull the strings yourself, as this may cause the device to move. Always use clean hands.
If the IUD comes out, see your doctor and use another method of birth control until you get a new one.
Although the chances of pregnancy with an IUD are very low, if you become pregnant with an IUD inserted, you should contact your doctor immediately.
IUD insertion is a short procedure done in your healthcare provider's office. Once your IUD is in place, it is important to make sure it stays in place. To do this, look for the laces to remove and watch your sanitary pads and tampons during your period to make sure they don't fall off. If so, consult your doctor.
The IUD may seem more expensive than other forms of monthly contraception because it pays in advance. However, since this cost of protecting an IUD can last between three and ten years, it is one of the cheapest and long-term forms of birth control.
The cost of an IUD can include:
- Medical check
- Device cost
- Follow-up visits to your doctor
The cost of the IUD may vary depending on your health insurance. For some, the IUD may be fully secured.
Just as IUDs must be inserted by a healthcare professional, they must also be removed on their own (they do not deteriorate over time).
Some women choose to have the IUD removed before the time is right if they want to start trying to conceive or simply prefer to switch to another method of birth control. Others keep theirs until they expire.
Removing an IUD is usually easier, less painful, and faster than inserting it. If you change your IUD, you can insert a new one during the same visit.
Never try to remove an IUD yourself or ask an unqualified person to do it, as this can cause serious harm.
IUDs are one of the most effective contraceptive methods available and almost all women who have them are happy with them. If you are considering an IUD, talk to your doctor about which one is best for you. Of the five on the market, four contain hormones and one does not.
If you have an IUD inserted, it is important that you take steps to make sure it stays in place. Be sure to speak with your doctor about any concerns you have and make sure the device is removed in time.