Update on IUDs

New Birth Control Options: IUDs

Why IUDs

The IUD, or intrauterine device, is a method of birth control that is prescribed and implanted in young women throughout the world.  It has many benefits; it’s low maintenance, long-acting, very effective and is available in hormone-free options. Here is more information about this method of birth control to determine if it right for you. Yes, IUDs have been around for years and their safety controversial, but newer options have brought them back into favor.

What is an IUD?

IUDs are small, T-shaped, plastic devices that are implanted into your uterus by a doctor. They have evolved through the years but there are two different types available in the U.S. that are approved by the FDA. ParaGard that continuously releases copper into the body to prevent pregnancy, and the hormonal IUD, Mirena, that releases progestin into the body.  This progestin is the same type of hormone found in birth control pills, and it works by thickening the cervical mucus to prevent egg fertilization while partially suppressing ovulation.

Hormone-free IUDs, the one that releases copper, last for 10 years after insertion, while hormonal IUDs, progestin, last for five years. Of course, both IUDs can be removed at any time by your doctor.

You’ll only know if an IUD is the right birth control option for you by talking to your doctor. The copper IUD is really ideal for anyone wanting to postpone pregnancy and motherhood for an indefinite period and who wants a hormone-free birth control solution. It’s very convenient, no daily rituals,  and once it is removed, your fertility is restored. According to the experts, benefits of ParaGard include a decreased risk for endometrial and cervical cancer, plus it doesn’t add the risk of side effects that are commonly related to hormonal birth control methods. The Mirena IUD offers some of the same benefits as ParaGard, and it can also help to ease severe menstrual pain and pain from endometriosis. It also has been reported to decrease menstrual bleeding after six months of use. The progestin in Mirena is a bio-identical progestin which you can read about in the Lifecycles section of Her Health Matters.   Look for articles such as You and Your Hormones.

Both forms of IUD  have a 99 plus percent efficacy rate in preventing pregnancy. This efficacy rate equals birth control pills, sterilization, implants, the skin patch and the birth control ring. I must also say that like other forms of birth control, IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Some factors to consider

There are certain health conditions that can prohibit you from using an IUD as your primary birth control method. Of course no IUD is appropriate during pregnancy, if you have pelvic infections or if you have had certain cancers. Also, as with most birth control methods, IUDs do come with some side effects.  Potential side effects can include mood swings, acne, headaches, pelvic pain, breast tenderness and nausea. Additionally, copper IUDs may also increase cramping and bleeding during menstruation.

Intrauterine devices are also a cost effective birth control choice. Doctor’s visits excluded the device typically estimates at $500, which is considerably lower than some of the newer monthly birth control prescriptions.  Before choosing any type of birth control, it is important to educate yourself, talk to your healthcare provider, weigh all of your options and make an informed decision.

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