You’ve heard great things about today’s intrauterine devices (IUDs), but you don’t know much about them. With so many different types of birth control out there, you’re not even sure how you’re going to choose the right one.
Knowing what you want from birth control — and what you don’t want — helps you make the right decision. The caring OB/GYN professionals here at The Association for Women's Health Care in Chicago and Northbrook, Illinois, encourage you to learn about the pros and cons of IUDs so you can decide if they’re a match for you.
Pro: It’s so tiny you can’t feel it
An IUD is a flexible, T-shaped appliance that’s only about an inch long. Your OB/GYN specialist inserts the IUD into your uterus, where it remains for 3-12 years, depending on the type of IUD you have. Your doctor removes the IUD whenever you’re ready to start a family.
The IUD has two tiny strings that hang through your cervix into your vagina. You check the strings every so often to be sure your IUD remains in position.
Con: Your OB/GYN specialist must insert it
You can’t just buy an IUD at the drugstore. You need your OB/GYN specialist to put it in place, although it takes only a few minutes. In that regard, the procedure is similar to a getting a Pap smear.
You may experience some cramping right after insertion. Regular over-the-counter painkillers should be sufficient to offer you relief. If you have continued pain, have your OB/GYN specialist remove the IUD so you can choose another method of birth control.
Pro: Almost as effective as abstinence
The only way to 100% guarantee that you won’t get pregnant is to abstain from all sexual activity. (Even dry rubs can sometimes lead to “accidents.”) However, an IUD has a 99% efficacy rate, so your risk of getting pregnant is extremely low.
Con: IUDs don’t protect against STDs
The IUD works by creating an environment in your uterus that’s inhospitable to sperm and conception. Depending on the type of IUD, your uterine lining thins, your cervical mucus thickens, or you stop ovulating.
However, the IUD doesn’t block semen and sperm from passing into your vagina and uterus during ejaculation. If you have sex with someone who is infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), you could get infected, too.
If you or your partner is at risk for STDs, always use a condom in addition to your IUD. Condoms lower, but don’t eliminate, the risk for STDs, so ask your OB/GYN about other safer-sex practices, too.
Pro: It’s ready when you are
Having an IUD means that as long as you’re practicing safer sex, you can be spontaneous without worrying about pregnancy. Your IUD offers reliable contraception for years at a time. The copper IUD starts working instantly.
Hormone-releasing IUDs should be removed and replaced every 3-10 years, depending on the brand. The copper-wrapped IUD can stay in place and offer continuous protection for up to 12 years.
Con: Rarely, the IUD slips out of place
Although it doesn’t happen often, IUDs can “get lost” in your uterus or slip into your vagina partially or completely. You regularly check your IUD’s placement by feeling for the short strings that hang into your vagina.
Pro: Low maintenance
Because the IUD stays in place for years at a time without requiring any kind of maintenance, it’s a perfect choice for busy women. An IUD may also be the best type of birth control for a teenage girl who is, or may become, sexually active. Unlike other methods, you don’t have to remember to take a pill or carry anything with you, other than a condom.
Con: Sometimes has side effects
Although most women have no reaction to IUDs, if you experience pain, cramping, or spotting, contact your OB/GYN specialist right away. Also, contact your doctor if you notice other changes, such as chills, heavy bleeding or unusual vaginal discharge.
Pro: Comes with or without hormones
Some IUDs contain slow-release hormones that prevent ovulation. If you’d prefer not to use hormonal therapy, the copper-wrapped IUD contains no hormones but is just as effective as the other IUDs.
Pro: Can be emergency contraception
If you had unprotected sex and are worried about an unwanted pregnancy, you can request a copper IUD as emergency contraception.
One distinct advantage of the IUD is that its contraceptive powers are completely and instantly reversible. When you’re ready to start a family, simply have your OB/GYN specialist remove the IUD. You can ask them about how best to get pregnant, and devise a plan that bolsters your chance of conception.
If the IUD sounds right for you, contact the The Association for Women’s Health Care by phone or use the online booking form.