An intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small, plastic T-shaped birth control implement that’s positioned in the uterus and left in place to prevent pregnancy long-term. It’s considered a long-acting reversible method of birth control, in that it can remain in place for several years, and be removed easily at any time. As a long-acting type of contraception, IUDs are 20 times more effective than short-acting hormonal methods, such as birth control pills, the patch, and the ring. There are two kinds of IUDs:
Copper-releasing IUD: In addition to physically blocking sperm from reaching an egg, this type of IUD releases copper ions, which are toxic to sperm. Copper IUDs start working immediately and can remain in place for up to 10 years.
Progestin-releasing IUD: This IUD physically blocks sperm from reaching an egg. It also releases progestin, a hormone used in many kinds of birth control, to prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. Progestin IUDs begin working seven days after insertion and can remain in place for 3-5 years, depending on the brand.
There are several potential benefits of choosing an IUD for contraception, including:
Following a review of your medical history and a pelvic exam, your gynecologist will place the IUD in a thin plastic tube and insert it into your vagina. After guiding it through your cervix and into your uterus, the tube is withdrawn, leaving the T-shaped device in place. IUDs have two small strings that are left hanging from your cervix, inside your vagina. These strings, which you won’t notice, allow your doctor to remove the device when the time comes.
IUD insertion may cause minor discomfort, cramping, or pain. Although you may not have any side effects, some women experience cramps or backaches for a few days or a few weeks following the procedure. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate any short-term discomfort.
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