IUDs may seem like a birth control wish come true; there’s no need to remember anything more than once every few years or so, they’re almost full-proof in their ability to prevent pregnancy, and you don’t have to fuss around with sponges, diaphragms or condoms.
Side Note: Condoms should only be relinquished in long-term, monogamous relationships where both parties have been screened for STDs).
But of course, there are two sides to every coin. Even IUDs have some side effects or considerations worth knowing about so you can make the best choice for your body and lifestyle.
Is an IUD Right For Me? Weighing the Pros and Cons
IUDs are are T-shaped devices, inserted through the cervix and into the entrance of the uterine cavity during an office visit to your OB/GYN. At their most basic level, they interfere with/block sperm so they can’t connect with an egg. In the case a sperm does fertilize an egg the IUD will prevent it from implanting in the uterus.
There are two different types of IUDs – copper and progestin-releasing – so the pros and cons are slightly different, based on the type of IUD you select after discussing available best birth control methods with your doctor.
Hormone-Free, Copper-IUDS (Paraguard)
If you’re interested in non-hormonal forms of birth control, and/or have had problems with hormone-related birth control in the past, a copper IUD (Paraguard is the brand name) might be a good solution for you. These IUD have a small copper wire coiled around the plastic T insert.
The wire releases copper ions that are toxic to sperm and the T-shape blocks them from reaching the egg. It’s a powerful combination. These copper IUDs can also be used as emergency contraception, like a “day after pill,” preventing you from getting pregnant if inserted within 5-days after you’ve had unprotected sex.
Pros of a Copper IUD include:
- Are 99% effective
- They last as long as 10 years in the uterus, making them one of the cheapest forms of trustworthy birth control on the market
- Can be used as emergency contraception
- They start work immediately after insertion so there is no reason to time your cycle or use contraception through your next period.
- Lower your risk of developing cervical cancer
- Since copper IUDs don’t release hormones (progestin), women who use them have a slightly reduced chance of getting uterine (endometrial) cancer.
Cons of a copper IUD include:
- No protection against STDs. You still need to use a condom and practice safe sex in order to prevent contracting a venereal disease while using an IUD.
- Women who use copper IUDs are at higher risk for experiencing heavier periods, stronger cramps and/or more spotting in between periods than women with a hormonal-based IUD.
- While the risk of getting pregnant with an IUD is less than 1%, women who do get pregnant while using an IUD are at higher risk for experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.
- You are dependent on a healthcare provider to insert or remove the IUD. When you’re ready to get pregnant, you’ll have to schedule an appointment. Similarly, when it needs to be replaced, it’s your ultimate responsibility to schedule the appointment, especially if you’ve moved or changed healthcare providers and/or your former provider can’t reach you to remind you.
- In rare cases, it might slip out of place and need to be removed.
Progestin-Releasing IUDS (Mirena, , Skyla, and Liletta)
IUDs that release progestin combine some of the best aspects of taking the pill (reduction in acne, less intense periods, reduction in PMS symptoms) along with the “no need to remember” benefits of an IUD.
In this case, the T-shaped IUD releases a hormone called progestin (a synthetic version of progesterone) to prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. While the T-shape works to block the sperm from reaching an errant egg (like the copper version), the progestin dose thickens cervical mucous (making it more difficult for the sperm to reach an egg) and thins the uterine lining, making it more difficult for a potentially fertilized egg to attach.
Pros of Hormone-based IUDs, include:
- Progestin-releasing IUDs have all the same pros in terms of affordability, reliability and the lack of needing to remember anything more than when yours needs to be removed/replaced.
- Lighter periods with less severe PMS
- Lowers your risk of cervical cancer
Cons of Hormone-based IUDs are:
- They aren’t effective until 7-days after insertion so you need to use birth control during this time. This also means progestin-based IUDs aren’t an effective emergency contraception.
- They share the same types of cons in regards to increasing your chances of an ectopic pregnancy and requiring a doctor to insert/remove them.
- Only last about 3 to 5 years before requiring replacement
- Some of have been associated with a higher-risk of post-partum depression, so if you’ve just had a baby, have a history of depression or have had PPD in the past, discuss your risk with the doctor.
- You still have a risk of developing an STD
Schedule a consultation with your OB/GYN to discuss IUDs
It’s always a good idea to schedule an appointment to discuss IUDs or other forms of effective contraception with your doctor before making a final decision. We take all kinds of things into consideration when making recommendations for our patients, including age, sexual history, medical history, family history and so on. The goal is to find a birth control that is safe, comfortable and effective – and that will cause a minimum of negative side effects.
Ready to have that conversation? Contact us here at Overlake to schedule a consultation.
By Hic et nunc – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5720445