Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are safe and convenient forms of birth control. They are typically highly effective at preventing pregnancy.
The first IUD was developed over 100 years ago in 1909. However, IUDs weren’t as safe and effective as the models we know today until the early to mid-2000s. Now, there are effective and safe copper and hormonal IUDs on the market.
The initial insertion of an IUD requires an office visit with a healthcare professional. It can be painful, but the discomfort subsides relatively quickly. Afterward, you may experience some mild spotting or bleeding for several weeks.
There are two types of IUDs: hormonal and non-hormonal. Hormonal IUDs work in a similar manner to birth control pills, although the hormones are released automatically over time instead of with a daily pill. Non-hormonal IUDs rely on a copper coating to prevent pregnancy.
Both hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs are highly effective at preventing pregnancy. In fact, many options are up to 99% effective. IUDs may also help some individuals manage heavy or painful periods.
There are a few cons associated with IUDs. First, they don’t protect you from STDs. Additionally, some people with certain medical conditions may not be able to get an IUD. Finally, there are rare, minor risks of infection and other side effects associated with IUDs.
The Pill Club can help you make sound decisions about whether or not an IUD is the right choice for your contraceptive needs.
IUD pros and cons: a complete guide
Whether you prefer a vaginal ring like Annovera birth control, a combination pill like Beyaz birth control, or an IUD, these are just a few types of contraceptives available today. Although birth control pills still lead in popularity among women between the ages of 15 to 49, IUDs are another well-regarded contraception choice among the different types of birth control. And it’s easy to see why—IUDs are convenient, long-lasting, and safe.
In this guide, we’ll explain how IUDs work, discuss the different types of IUDs on the market, and explore IUD pros and cons to help you determine if an IUD is a good option for your reproductive health needs.
What is the IUD?
You might think that an intrauterine device (IUD) is a fairly recent contraceptive development. However, the first attempt at an IUD actually dates back to 1909. This first version was a small ring made of silkworm gut.
Luckily, we’ve come a long way since then, and today’s IUDs are made of soft, flexible plastic. Some contain slow-release hormones, while others are made using copper.
How do IUDs work?
Depending on the type of IUD birth control option you choose, you might be protected from an unwanted pregnancy for anywhere between 3 to 12 years. If you’re unfamiliar with how an IUD works, take a look below at the process of getting and using an IUD:
Office visit – First, getting an IUD requires an office visit with a healthcare professional. The device requires professional insertion, so you’ll need to make an appointment for it.
Insertion – The IUD is a thin, flexible, plastic device. You may be offered medication or a numbing cervical injection prior to insertion (if your provider doesn’t offer, and you’re concerned about pain, ask!). Your healthcare professional will insert the device by going through the opening of your cervix into your uterus. The plastic arms of the IUD will implant into the wall of your uterus, holding the IUD in place. Your healthcare provider will then clip the long string attached to the end of the IUD to an appropriate length. The entire process only takes a few minutes.
Afterward – You might experience some pain and cramping during insertion and in the days that follow. The pain is typically similar to the cramps you get during your period and can be managed with an over-the-counter pain reliever. You may also notice a little bleeding or spotting in the weeks following insertion.
Are IUDs safe?
In general, IUDs are a safe, practical, and effective contraception method. Some people may experience mild side effects or problems, such as:
Spotting or bleeding after insertion
Heavier periods for several months after initial insertion
Possibility that the IUD can slip out
More serious side effects, such as uterine perforations, are quite rare. Most users only experience mild discomfort.
Who is eligible for an IUD?
For most people, an IUD can be a viable choice for contraception with little to no health risks. However, some people may not be able to get an IUD due to existing health conditions. Some individuals who shouldn’t get an IUD include:
Those who might be pregnant
Individuals who have certain STDs
Those with untreated cervical cancers
Individuals who have cancer of the uterus
Those who have suffered from a pelvic infection recently
You should always discuss your options with your healthcare provider to determine which contraceptives are safe and appropriate for you.
What types of IUDs are available?
Now that you know a little more about the process of getting an IUD and who can get them, let’s discuss the specifics of IUDs in greater detail.
There are two IUD options available on the market today:
IUDs that don’t contain hormones and use copper instead
IUDs that slowly release hormones into your body
Let’s look more closely at these two types.
One popular type of IUD is the Paragard copper IUD. This brand doesn’t contain any hormones. Instead, there is a small amount of copper wrapped around the plastic t-shaped device. Why?
Copper is a sperm-repellent. The copper IUD works to prevent pregnancy by deterring sperm that are trying to make their way to your eggs.
And the copper IUD is highly effective. In fact, Paragard is up to 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. As a bonus, it can last for up to 12 years after insertion. This means it’s a long-lasting and effective birth control option.
The second type of IUD contains hormones, similar to a birth control pill. Hormonal IUD releases hormones slowly into your body. The hormones released by your IUD help prevent pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to navigate. These hormones can also suppress ovulation, meaning that an egg isn’t released. This leaves nothing for sperm to fertilize.
Popular brands of hormonal IUDs include:
Mirena – The Mirena IUD lasts for up to seven years after insertion. It’s 99% effective at preventing pregnancy andcan also be prescribed to help those who suffer from heavy periods each month.
Kyleena – Another option for those seeking a hormonal IUD is Kyleena. This IUD is the same size as Skyla and contains a lower hormone dose than Mirena or Liletta. A Kyleena IUD lasts for up to five years, and is 98%–99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Liletta – The Liletta IUD uses the progestin Levonorgestrel, and can last for up to seven years once inserted. The device is made of thin, flexible plastic and is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Skyla – Finally, some IUD users like Skyla. This is another small, soft, flexible plastic device that releases Levonorgestrel into your body. Skyla isn’t as long-lasting as the other options and will need to be replaced after three years. However, it’s 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
What are the pros and cons of using an IUD?
As with all contraceptives, an IUD comes with both pros and cons. Deciding whether or not an IUD is the best option for your reproductive health needs requires consideration of both the positives and negatives. Let’s examine these, below.
Potential advantages of using an IUD
First, let’s break down the potential advantages of relying on an IUD for your contraceptive needs. Some of the top pros include:
IUDs can last for many years
You can choose from both hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs
Certain IUDs may help provide relief from heavy or painful periods
IUDs are highly effective at preventing pregnancy and don’t require a daily pill
IUDs don’t prevent you from getting pregnant once they’re removed
IUDs can also be used as emergency contraception in some situations
As you can see, an IUD is a highly effective tool in preventing pregnancy and is available in both hormonal and non-hormonal varieties. This means it’s a viable option for individuals who can’t take hormonal birth control.
Potential disadvantages of using an IUD
There are also a few potential disadvantages associated with using an IUD. Some of these may include:
The initial IUD insertion process can be painful
After an IUD insertion, you may experience spotting and heavy menstrual bleeding for several months
While it’s rare, an IUD can fall out
Individuals with certain health conditions cannot use this contraceptive
IUDs present a slight risk for infection
IUDs don’t protect you from STDs
It’s important to speak with your healthcare provider about whether an IUD birth control method is right for you based on your individual needs and health history.
Get your IUD questions answered in one place with The Pill Club
For many people, the IUD is the answer to their contraceptive debate. IUDs are convenient, safe, and highly effective. You can even opt for an IUD that doesn’t use hormones to prevent pregnancy. However, an IUD isn’t right for everyone. If you have certain health conditions, you may not be able to get an IUD. With that comes questions like: which option is better, IUD vs. birth control pill, is the shot as effective as the IUD birth control method, etc.
At The Pill Club, we can answer your contraception questions and help you find the right match for your reproductive health needs. We offer telemedicine consultations, prescription services, and so much more.
Visit our site today to learn more about The Pill Club and how we can help you navigate your reproductive health.
At The Pill Club, our goal is to provide the most up-to-date, objective, and research-based information to help readers make informed decisions. Articles are written by experienced contributors; they are grounded in research and evidence-based practices. All information has been fact-checked and extensively reviewed by our team of experts to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards. Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.