Medically reviewed by Mary Jane Minkin, M.D.
Women today have more options than ever when it comes to birth control. One of these options is the intrauterine device, better known as the IUD. But how do you know if an IUD is right for you? Talk to your healthcare provider (HCP) about your options. In the meantime, here’s the scoop about IUDs.
What is an IUD?
An IUD is a small T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into your uterus by your HCP. An IUD is considered long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), which means you don’t have to worry about birth control on a daily basis. But it won’t keep you from getting pregnant once it’s removed. IUDs don’t protect you from STIs/STDs, so you will have to use condoms for that protection.
There are two different types of IUDs:
- Hormonal IUDs release a human-made version of hormone progesterone, which is called progestin. Progestin makes the mucus in your uterus thicker to stop sperm from fertilizing an egg and can stop you from ovulating (releasing an egg).
- Hormone-free IUDs have a copper wire coil wrapped around them. The copper causes an inflammatory reaction, which is toxic to sperm and keeps it from getting into the uterus.
Who are good candidates for IUDs?
Many premenopausal women can safely use IUDs for contraception. Also, women who have severe menstrual bleeding and cramps or who have fibroid pain are sometimes prescribed hormonal IUDs because progestin can help with these symptoms.
Always discuss this with your healthcare provider, but in general, you should not use a hormonal IUD if you have or had certain health conditions. These include:
- Breast, uterine or cervical cancer
- Liver disease
- Migraine disease
- A history of blood clots
- Pelvic infections or unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Heart conditions
- If you have recently given birth
- If you’ve had an IUD before and your body expelled it
People with an allergy to copper should not use the non-hormonal IUD.
Does getting an IUD hurt?
The process of IUD insertion is quick, but it can be painful. How badly IUD insertion hurts can vary from person to person. Typically, people getting an IUD are told to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin ahead of time to prevent cramping or afterward to ease pain. But local anesthetics or topical freezing can also help with pain during insertion. Don’t be afraid to ask your HCP what your options are before the procedure and insist on getting help if you think you’ll want something for the pain.
Can you have sex with an IUD?
Yes, and one advantage of having an IUD is that sex does not have to be interrupted for contraception.
There is a 24-hour recommended waiting period after your IUD is inserted to prevent infection. This is because the IUD procedure involves your healthcare provider using surgical instruments as it passes the IUD through your vagina and cervix, and into your uterus. The procedure can irritate the lining of your reproductive system temporarily. If you have sex too soon, you could develop pelvic inflammatory disease. After that waiting period, you can have sex anytime.
Can you get pregnant if you have an IUD?
Getting pregnant with IUD is rare, but can happen — IUDs are more than 99% effective.
How long do IUDs stay in?
A hormonal IUD can stay in place for up to eight years, depending on the brand. A hormone-free IUD can stay in place up to 10 years.
Do IUDs stop periods?
Sometimes. A hormonal IUD can slow your period bleeding a few months after insertion, or make your periods irregular. Around 1 in 5 of women stop getting their periods after getting a hormonal IUD. Non-hormonal IUDs typically don’t affect your period.
Are there any side effects of IUDs?
There can be. For hormonal IUDs, side effects can include:
- Adult acne
- Breast tenderness
- Mood shifts
- Cramps or pain around your pelvis
Side effects of hormone-free IUDs can include:
- Bleeding between periods
- Heavy periods
How much do IUDs cost and are they covered by insurance?
IUDs can cost more than $1,300 out of pocket. However, many insurance plans cover IUDs at low or no cost. Check your coverage, and speak to your (HCP) for more information.
This resource was created with support from Organon and Co. and Sebela Women’s Health, Inc.