What is an IUD?
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped birth control device, about the size of a quarter, that is placed inside a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. It is a reversible contraceptive, meaning it can be removed if pregnancy is desired.
IUDs are one of the most popular contraceptive options for women. They prevent pregnancy by preventing the sperm cells from reaching and fertilizing the woman’s eggs. Modern-day IUDs are one of the safest and most effective birth control methods. You can get an IUD put in any time during your menstrual cycle.
How does an IUD prevent pregnancy?
There are two types of IUDs:
- Copper IUDs
- Hormonal IUDs
They work by either of the following two ways:
Is it painful to have an IUD put in?
Getting an IUD is generally not excessively painful. Before inserting the IUD, your doctor or nurse will ask you questions about your medical history. This will be followed by an examination of your vagina, cervix and uterus. You may be tested for any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The entire procedure takes around five minutes. First, a device called a speculum is inserted in the vagina followed by placing the IUD into the uterus with the help of a narrow inserter.
Pain is usually felt when the speculum is inserted and the IUD is being placed inside the uterus. Some women report a sharp cramping pain which lasts no more than a minute or two. The doctor may advise a pain-reducing medicine before or after the procedure to make it comfortable. They may also inject medicines to numb the cervix so that pain is reduced to a minimum.
After the IUD is inserted, there is a small thread-like string extending out from the vagina. It is just one to two inches in length and barely noticeable or felt. It should not be pulled with force to avoid displacing the IUD. The string can be used to remove the IUD later.
What can I expect after an IUD insertion procedure?
Although the procedure is quick and done in the doctor’s office, some women might feel lightheaded after the IUD is put in. You may ask someone to accompany you so that you can comfortably get back home after the procedure.
Many people feel perfectly fine after they get an IUD, while others need to take rest for some time. Heating pad and over-the-counter medicines will help with any pain. You may experience occasional cramping and spotting that resolves within three to six months. Your experience may vary depending on the type of IUD inserted.
- Hormonal IUDs make periods lighter and less painful. You may stop getting periods after some time. This is not a permanent occurrence and your periods regularize after the IUD removal.
- Copper IUDs in contrast can make you get heavy and crampy periods.
The discomfort with the IUDs goes away over time. If the IUD is giving you pain, fever, bleeding, discomfort or any other disturbing symptoms, you should consult with your doctor.
When should I get my IUD removed?
You should note the date you received your IUD, as different IUDs are effective for different durations. Some of the common IUDs and the time for which they can be left in your uterus are:
- Paragard IUD: 12 years
- Mirena IUD: Seven years
- Kyleena IUD: Five years
- Liletta IUD: Seven years
- Skyla IUD: Three years
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Medically Reviewed on 6/16/2020
How effective are IUDs?
Intrauterine Devices: IUD