IUD (Intrauterine Device)
A little T-shaped piece of plastic or copper that your doctor puts in your uterus, an IUD can prevent pregnancy for up to 12 years!
The IUD is a little, T-shaped device. It’s a piece of plastic or copper that your doctor puts in your uterus, and it makes it really hard for sperm to move around in there and fertilize an egg. Sounds odd, but it works like a charm. IUDs offer years of protection—between 3 and 12 years, depending on the type you get. If you decide to get pregnant later, you can have the IUD removed at any time. In the U.S., there are four types of IUDs: Mirena and ParaGard, which are already widely available, and the newer options, Skyla and Liletta.
This IUD is made of plastic and a small amount of natural, safe copper. It’s 100% hormone free and doesn’t alter your periods. It can stay inside you for up to 12 years.
This plastic IUD releases a small amount of the synthetic hormone progestin to help your body keep sperm from passing through your cervix. It lasts as long as you want, up to five years, and may give you lighter periods.
This plastic IUD is the smallest one available and has been FDA-approved for women who have not had a child. It releases a small amount of progestin to help keep sperm from passing through your cervix. It works for up to 3 years.
Liletta is the new kid on the IUD block. It’s the little sister of Skyla and Mirena and works in the same way.
Get it and forget it.
If you’re a busy person who doesn’t want to worry about remembering birth control, the IUD may just be for you. Once it’s in, you’re good to go for anywhere from 3 to 12 years.
No packages or prescriptions to pick up at the pharmacy, so there’s nothing that can get lost or forgotten.
No one can tell when you have an IUD. Some partners say they can feel the string, but that can be adjusted. There’s no packaging, and you don’t have to prep anything right before sex.
Teens love it.
More than 80% of teens who use IUDs like them and keep using them. The pill only scores 55%.
Safe and sound.
Most experts agree, if you’re healthy and have a uterus, you’re probably a good candidate for the IUD. That’s true even if you’re young, have never been pregnant nor given birth. It’s also a great method for new moms, even if they’re breastfeeding.
The pregnancy question.
You should return to fertility—aka, be able to get pregnant—very quickly after you have the IUD removed. But if you’re not ready to get pregnant as soon as you have an IUD taken out, be sure to protect yourself with an alternate birth control method.
How to Use It
If you want to get an IUD, the first thing you’ll need to do is talk with your health care provider. They will ask you a bunch of questions about your medical history and your lifestyle, then give you an exam to make sure the IUD is right for you.
You can get the IUD inserted any time of the month, but some health care providers like to insert it during your period. Really, any time is fine as long as you’re sure you’re not pregnant. It’s not a comfortable experience, but it may be a little easier to get it done during the middle of your period. That’s when your cervix, the opening to your uterus, is the most open. That might sound a little weird/gross to you, but don’t worry, your doctor is totally used to it.
It’s pretty common to feel cramps when an IUD is inserted, but they’ll go away with rest or pain medication. Some people might feel dizzy, too. Once the IUD is in, you’ll notice little strings that hang down into your vagina. They’re there so the IUD can be removed later. The strings don’t hang out of the vagina like a tampon, though, so don’t worry about that.
After the IUD’s in, there’s not much you have to do other than check the string ends from time to time to make sure it’s in place. Here’s how:
- Wash your hands, then sit or squat down.
- Put your finger in your vagina until you touch your cervix, which will feel firm and rubbery like the tip of your nose.
- Feel for the strings. If you find them, congrats! Your IUD is good to go. But if you feel the hard part of the IUD against your cervix, you may need to have it adjusted or replaced by your health care provider. Don’t tug on the strings! If you do, the IUD could move out of place.
If you don’t feel comfortable checking for the strings, you can let your health care provider do that the month after insertion, and then yearly after that.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if you have health insurance, chances are good you’ll be able use this birth control method with no out-of-pocket cost. Tricare, the military insurance, covers this method at all Tricare-authorized providers. Medicaid also covers the cost.
IUDs are available at health centers and doctors’ offices for free or at very low costs. Private insurance may cover your IUD for the cost of your co-pay, which could be as low as $0.
You might still need condoms.
Because IUDs are such awesome pregnancy protectors, some people drop condoms too soon. Remember that IUDs don’t prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Only stop using condoms after you and your partner have been tested and have talked about your STI statuses.
There are positive and negative things to say about each and every birth control method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friends experience.
- Easy to use
- Doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment
- Superlong-lasting protection without much effort
- Safe for smokers and people with hypertension and diabetes
- ParaGard doesn’t change hormone levels
- Mirena, Skyla and Liletta may reduce cramps and make periods lighter (Some people’s periods stop completely.)
- You can use it while breastfeeding
- Spotting between periods, especially during the first few months after getting an IUD
- Increased period flow has been reported by some Paraguard users
- Cramps and backaches
Watch Out for
- IUD slipping out
- IUD pushing through the wall of the uterus
If you still feel uncomfortable after three months, switch methods and stay protected. You’re worth it.
*For a very small number of people, there are risks of serious side effects.
Don’t take our word for it. Check out these videos to hear people talk about their experiences with the IUD. And be sure to ask your health care provider which method is best for you.
Real Stories about Birth Control: Brittany and the Paraguard IUD @Bedsider
Real Stories about Birth Control: Jenna and the Mirena IUD @ Bedsider
Expert dirt : “People who have them usually LOVE them, and they’re totally ‘whoops-proof.’”