Women are increasingly choosing to use intrauterine devices (IUDs) to prevent pregnancy. How do you know if this method is right for you?
An IUD is a T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. Depending on the type of device, IUDs prevent pregnancy by either blocking fertilization of the egg or by stopping the egg from implanting in the wall of the uterus.
There are several reasons why more women are turning to IUDs, including that they are easy to use, safe, and effective:
- Unlike birth control pills, sponges, and other methods, you don’t have to remember to do anything to be protected.
- IUDs can be used by most women, regardless of medical history, including teens and women who have never given birth.
- They are more than 99 percent effective.
- IUDs are reversible, meaning that they can be taken out and will not affect your ability to become pregnant.
- Depending on the type, IUDs can last from three to 10 years.
- They can help treat pain related to endometriosis, a condition that occurs when the cells of a woman’s uterine lining implant and grow outside of the uterus into other parts of the pelvis.
- Research studies show that IUDs can decrease a woman’s risk of developing cervical, endometrial, and ovarian cancers.
- They can lighten, shorten, or stop periods.
- IUDs come in hormonal (progestin) and non-hormonal (copper) forms.
- There are very few side effects associated with IUD use.
- They can help treat painful periods and heavy periods, improve anemia caused by heavy periods, and can treat endometrial hyperplasia (abnormally thick uterus lining).
Are there any disadvantages to using IUDs?
While in my opinion the benefits of using IUDs outweigh the drawbacks, it’s important to understand the disadvantages:
- IUDs require visiting a gynecologist for insertion and removal.
- Insertion can be painful, although the procedure is usually short (removal is much less painful).
- They won’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections.
- There is a small risk that the IUD will become dislodged.
- Copper IUDs may make periods slightly more painful or heavier.
- Progesterone IUDs may cause irregular spotting or bleeding initially, but irregular bleeding usually stops within three months.
- There is a very small rate of failure (less than 1%).
Types of IUDs
There are several types of IUDs:
- Mirena is a higher-dose hormonal IUD that can last up to five years.
- Liletta is a higher-dose hormonal IUD. It is the least expensive option and can last up to six years.
- Kyleena is a medium-dose hormonal IUD that’s also smaller than the Mirena, which makes it a good option for women who haven’t given birth. It can last up to five years.
- Skyla is a lower-dose hormonal IUD that is smaller than the Mirena. It can last up to three years.
- Paragard is a non-hormonal copper IUD that can last up to 10 years.
Speak with your doctor about which birth control option is best for your family planning goals and lifestyle.
Dr. Margaret Dufreney, MD, is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist on staff at CentraState Medical Center. She can be reached by calling 866-CENTRA7.