If you’re thinking about birth control options, you may be considering an IUD, or intrauterine device. This small T-shaped device is a form of long-acting birth control that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Kellen Goldschmidt, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist with ProMedica Physicians, explains five facts about IUDs.
1. IUDs are effective.
“The IUDs are among the most effective options we have at preventing unintended pregnancies,” said Dr. Goldschmidt. “For young women, they can be even more effective than getting their tubes tied.”
In fact, during the first year of IUD use, fewer than one out of 100 women will get pregnant. And overtime, IUDs are 20 times more effective than traditional methods like birth control pills, the patch or the ring.
2. There are hormonal and nonhormonal options.
An IUD works mainly be preventing the fertilization of the egg.
“There are both hormonal/progesterone and nonhormonal/copper options,” explained Dr. Goldschmidt. “The progestin in the hormonal IUD thickens the mucus in the cervix and makes it hard for sperm to enter the uterus and reach the egg. The copper in the copper IUD interferes with the sperm’s ability to move. Since the sperm and the egg never meet, the IUD is not aborting a fertilized egg.”
3. IUDs can be removed at any time.
IUDS are a form of long-acting birth control that can stay in place for years, making it a very convenient option for women. And, it’s reversible.
“The device is placed in the uterus at the doctor’s office and if someone decides they want to get pregnant or have the device removed, they can take it out at any time,” said Dr. Goldschmidt.
4. Changes with your period may occur from an IUD.
“When a woman uses an IUD, changes in menstrual bleeding are normal and are not harmful,” assured Dr. Goldschmidt.
With the copper IUD, painful periods and bleeding may increase during the first months of use. Hormonal IUDs may cause spotting, more days of bleeding and heavier bleeding in the first months of use. However, over time, the amount of menstrual bleeding and the length of your menstrual period usually decreases. Menstrual pain also usually decreases. For some women using a hormonal IUD, menstrual bleeding stops completely.
“A small number of women may also experience headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes,” said Dr. Goldschmidt. “Some common concerns with the IUD are the risk of the IUD poking into or through the uterus, but this complication is a very uncommon event.”
5. IUDs do not prevent STDs.
While IUDs are a very safe and effective form of birth control, they do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). “In order to prevent STDs, female or male condoms are still recommended while using an IUD,” advised Dr. Goldschmidt.
Still have questions about IUDs and long-acting, reversible birth control? Read these FAQs from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Watch Dr. Goldschmidt talk about IUDs in a recent Ask the Expert on 13abc: