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The IUD is a type of safe and effective birth control.
It is a small t-shaped piece of plastic, about the size of a quarter. An IUD prevents pregnancy by changing the lining of the uterus so that a man’s sperm can't make their way to a woman’s egg.
There are two types of IUDs:
- Copper IUDs (ParaGard)
- Hormonal IUDs (Mirena, Skyla, and Liletta)
Here are some things you might want to know about the IUD to help you decide if it is the right birth control method for you.
How effective is an IUD at preventing pregnancy?
IUDs are very good at preventing pregnancy. IUDs work better than birth control pills, the patch, the ring, and the shot. IUDs are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
How long does an IUD prevent pregnancy?
You can use an IUD for 3 to 12 years, depending on which type you use. And, if you change your mind, you can ask a health care provider to take it out at any time.
- ParaGard works for up to 12 years
- Mirena works for up to 5 years
- Skyla and Liletta work for up to 3 years
How does an IUD work?
Both copper and hormonal IUDs prevent a woman from getting pregnant by making the fluid in a woman’s cervix thick and sticky. This keeps a man’s sperm from getting inside her uterus and reaching an egg. If sperm can’t reach the egg, a woman can’t get pregnant.
Hormonal IUDs also release a small amount of hormone that, for some women, keeps the egg from leaving the ovaries. If there isn't an egg, a woman can’t get pregnant.
The ParaGard IUD doesn't have hormones. It is wrapped in copper, which kills sperm.
Do I need to do anything to make an IUD work better?
Nope! Once an IUD is in, you don’t need to do anything else to prevent pregnancy.
How is an IUD put in?
You have to go to a health care provider to get an IUD.
The health care provider will use a small tube, like a straw, to gently place the IUD through your cervix into your uterus.
Some women have cramping when the IUD is put in and for a few days afterwards. This is normal. You may want to stay at home to rest the day after you get an IUD placed, take Motrin, or relax with a warm bath. If it still hurts after a few days, call your health care provider.
What do women like about the IUD?
It lasts for a long time. It’s easy to use. And, no one will be able to tell you’re using it.
Women like the Copper IUD because it is a hormone-free birth control option. It is also effective as emergency contraception if inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex.
Women like hormonal IUDs because they may make their periods lighter or less painful. The Liletta IUD may even make a woman’s periods stop entirely during use.
What are the side effects of an IUD?
Your periods will probably change when you have an IUD.
With the copper IUD, your period may be heavier or last longer, and you might have more cramping. Use pain relievers and warm baths to help with the discomfort.
With hormonal IUDs, you might have spotting between periods. Keep panty liners in your purse or school locker. Your period might stop completely when you have a hormonal IUD.
These are normal side effects and not a medical problem.
Does an IUD protect me from STDs?
IUDs are great at preventing pregnancy, but will not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Learn how to avoid STDs.
What other safe and effective birth control options are there?
Learn about the Implant to find out if it’s the right pregnancy prevention method for you. There are also a lot of other birth control methods to choose from. Talk to a health care provider to see what type of birth control is the best fit for your health needs and life goals.