In recent years, you may have been hearing more about IUDs. You may know someone who loves having one; you may know someone else who tried an IUD but had it removed because of side effects. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to get sucked down the rabbit hole of birth control information because there is a lot out there. Below, we discuss some pros and cons to weigh if you are considering getting an IUD.
What Is an IUD?
An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a T-shaped plastic or copper device inserted into your uterus by a doctor or nurse. Copper IUDs release copper that prevents pregnancy (ParaGard is the only copper IUD currently available in the U.S.). Hormonal IUDs (Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla) release the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. What we love most about IUDs is that they can protect you anywhere from 3-12 years.
It can be a little scary knowing something will be put into your uterus, but the beauty is that IUDs are so tiny (only about an inch long) many women can’t feel them. Your doctor inserts the IUD into your uterus, where it stays for a set amount of years, depending on the device. Two teeny strings hang through your cervix and vagina, which is how you can check to ensure it’s still in place. If and when you’re ready to become pregnant, your doctor can remove the IUD.
Who Can Get an IUD?
Generally speaking, anyone with a womb can get an IUD. Your doctor will talk to you about your family history and any current health concerns you may have regarding getting one inserted and whether it’s the right option for you. If you think you might be pregnant, have an untreated STI, have experienced issues with your womb or cervix, or have unexplained bleeding between periods or after sex, an IUD might not be the best option for you.
Pros of Getting an IUD
- An IUD is a no-fuss birth-control option, where you don’t have to remember to take a pill at the same time every day, nor do you have to carry anything with you, making them great for women on the go.
- IUDs have one of the highest effectiveness rates out of any birth control option (about 99% efficiency).
- Let’s be real: Sometimes, we engage in sexual activity quite spontaneously. With an IUD, you don’t have to worry about pregnancy because as long as it is in, it’s doing its job. (We must note that IUDs will NOT protect against STIs, so using condoms is equally important in certain instances.)
- IUDs are completely reversible, meaning if you decide you want to start a family one day, your doctor can remove your IUD. You can get pregnant immediately after the device is removed.
- With time, IUDs can make your period super light; in some cases, you won’t experience any bleeding at all. In fact, approximately half of women with a hormonal IUD stop having their menstrual cycles. Say goodbye to tampons and pads!
Cons of Getting an IUD
- If you’re on birth control, you know how easy it is to run by the drugstore and pick up your prescription. With an IUD, a doctor must insert it and remove it.
- The insertion process can be, and typically is, painful, especially if you have never had your cervix dilated during childbirth. Luckily, the procedure only lasts a few minutes, and your doctor will often give you pain medicine to help alleviate some of the discomfort.
- You’ll likely experience cramping for a few hours following the procedure, but nothing an OTC pain reliever can’t fix.
- Other potential side effects can include extended pain, cramping, or spotting. Contact your doctor right away if these things are severe or worsen over time.
- While rare, an IUD can slip out of place and enter your abdomen. That’s why having your annual gynecologist exam and knowing how and where to check for the strings is imperative.
- The non-hormonal copper IUD has a history of being more painful than the hormonal plastic IUD. Pain during your periods may increase dramatically for the next few months. Some women can even taste the copper taste in their mouth from the copper release of ParaGard. Remember – you can always get it removed.
The type of birth control you use is a decision you should make for yourself with the advice and guidance of your doctor. If you think an IUD may be right for you, speak with your OB/GYN about the various options. Remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question or asking too many questions. At the end of the day, it’s your body, and you should do what makes you feel the most comfortable.
Do you have experience with an IUD? Share with us in the comments below!