An Intrauterine Device (IUD) is a contraceptive option that a healthcare professional inserts into the uterus. IUDs are the most commonly chosen form of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC). Once an IUD is in place, you do not need to worry about contraception until it requires replacement, typically every three to 10 years, depending on the brand. LARCs, including IUDs and contraceptive implants, are considered the most effective non-surgical birth control methods available.
If you decide to become pregnant, your healthcare provider can remove the IUD. It’s important to note that unlike some other contraceptive methods like condoms, IUDs do not offer protection against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). To have both pregnancy prevention and STI protection, using an IUD in conjunction with condoms can provide dual protection. This combination helps prevent pregnancy while also reducing the risk of contracting an STI.
Types of IUDs
There are two types of IUDs: copper IUDs and hormonal (levonorgestrel) IUDs. Both variations have plastic frames that unfold into a T-shape once placed inside your uterus. They feature strings attached at the base, extending into your vagina, allowing your doctor to remove the IUD as necessary.
Both types incorporate components that make them visible during imaging procedures. Your doctor can assess the positioning of your IUD during routine wellness visits to ensure it is correctly placed.
All IUDs elicit an immune response, as your body identifies the IUD as an intruder and initiates a defense mechanism. This response leads to inflammation. The inflammation in your uterus generates an environment toxic to sperm. Consequently, sperm are unable to reach your fallopian tubes for fertilization.
Moreover, the distinct characteristics of copper and hormonal IUDs also hinder sperm from exiting your uterus.
Hormonal IUDs come in different variations concerning the amount of levonorgestrel they contain and their release rates. For example, Mirena and Liletta release a higher dose of progestin compared to Kyleena and Skyla. It’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider to determine which specific brands align best with your individual needs.
Depending on factors such as your age and overall health, your healthcare provider may recommend an extended duration of IUD use while still ensuring the same level of contraceptive effectiveness. Always follow the guidance provided by your healthcare provider in this regard.
It’s important to note that the insertion, adjustment, or removal of an IUD can only be performed by a qualified healthcare professional.
An IUD has the potential to alter your menstrual cycle:
Initially, the strings of the IUD may feel stiff, and you or your partner might notice this during intercourse. However, over time, the strings should soften. If your IUD is affecting your sex life or causing discomfort during sex, consult your doctor.
Most individuals using IUDs typically continue to ovulate, releasing an egg each month in their menstrual cycle. Ovulation may lead to the development of ovarian cysts, which are generally harmless and often resolve on their own. The occurrence of cysts is common and depends on your menstrual cycle phase.
IUDs are regarded as both safe and effective. Although complications are infrequent, they may include:
Your doctor will assess your eligibility for an IUD considering your health and lifestyle. Before the procedure, you might be required to undergo a pregnancy test or be tested for STIs.
Discuss pain management options with your provider in advance of the procedure. While many individuals tolerate IUD insertion without issues, some may hesitate due to concerns about the experience. Your provider may suggest taking pain medications beforehand to alleviate any potential discomfort. Additionally, they may numb the area before the procedure.
Open communication with your doctor can alleviate any anxiety you may have regarding getting an IUD.
You might not observe any side effects, or you could encounter mild to intense pain. It is advisable to allocate some time for recovery just in case. If possible, take the remainder of the day off from work.
You might be experiencing the following after the procedure:
Utilizing Over-The-Counter (OTC) NSAIDs and applying heating pads can alleviate the pain. Panty liners and pads are useful for managing any bleeding.
Paragard offers immediate effectiveness as a contraceptive method. However, when it comes to hormonal IUDs, their ability to prevent pregnancy depends on your menstrual cycle. If you have a hormonal IUD inserted while you’re on your period, it provides immediate protection. If the insertion is not during your period, it may take up to a week for the hormonal IUD to offer full contraceptive protection. To ensure consistent contraception during this period, it is advisable to use alternative forms of birth control while waiting for your hormonal IUD to take full effect.
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