Are you looking for an impermanent form of birth control that feels pretty permanent while you’re using it? Nothing to remember to take each morning and nothing to be injected? Something that is inserted one time and doesn’t come out again for another three- to 12-years (depending on the brand)?
Sounds like you’re a prime candidate for an IUD (intrauterine device).
These T-Shaped devices emerged back in the 70s. As with all “inventions” there was a little bit of fallout and discontent among the first generation of users, namely that the original devices could cause a serious infection. Time, however, has marched right on and so have the innovations that make IUDs one of the most safe and popular choices for women interested in birth control they don’t have to think about on a regular basis.
5 Facts You Should Know About the IUD
Of course, there are pros and cons to everything, so your trusted OB/GYN should be your consultant and confidant as you work through whether an IUD is the best choice for you.
There is more than one kind of IUD
There are two different types of IUDs on the market: hormonal and non-hormonal. There are four brands of the hormonal type – Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena – and ParaGuard is the non-hormonal (copper) IUD brand. Both types are equally effective with 99% success rates but you’ll need to speak with your doctor to determine which type you’re most comfortable with.
The ones that use hormones secrete progestin – a synthetic version of progesterone – to prevent you from getting pregnant. The copper version (ParaGuard) doesn’t use hormones, which many women consider a plus, but it does secrete micro-doses of copper into the uterus and its presence creates an inflammatory effect. This may or may not be an issue – but inflammation can exacerbate other latent health issues so it may not be the best option depending on your health history.
You have control over when it goes in and when it goes out
…along with the help of your doctor, anyway. You can choose when an IUD is inserted, and when it’s removed. Insertion only takes about a minute or so, removal may take just a bit longer – but not by much. Once the IUD is removed, you can get pregnant right away – there’s no latency period. That means if you don’t want to get pregnant, you’ll need to use another form of birth control.
They don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
We’re hoping you already know that the only way to avoid getting a sexually transmitted disease is to use a condom or a female condom (dental dam). So while an IUD is incredibly effective at preventing you from conceiving a baby, it will do nothing at all to prevent you from contracting – or spreading – an STD.
If you are sexually active, in non-monogamous relationships, we recommend being screened for STDs every six months to a year, just to be on the safe side. In all cases, early detection is key to early treatment and your inability to spread something to another individual.
There can be side-effects
The large majority of the side effects attributed to IUDs occur during, or right after, its insertion. They can continue for the immediate period after insertion as your body and uterus get used to the foreign object that has taken up residence. In most cases, women don’t experience any negative side effects after the first few months or so.
Some of the side effects associated with IUDs include:
- Mild to moderate discomfort or pain when the IUD is inserted
- Cramping and/or an achy back for the first days after insertion (sort of like menstrual cramps)
- Irregular periods
- Spotting between periods
- ParaGuard has been associated with heavier periods and more severe menstrual cramps
One other thing to note: A recent study out of Denmark, which surveyed data collected from more than 1 million women, over the course of 14 years, found that women who use Progestin based birth control are significantly more likely to experience symptoms of depression. The risk of depression was double for women using progestin-only pills and triple for women who used a levonorgestrel IUD (brand name Mirena and Kyleena). Post-partum mothers who had an IUD put back in place six weeks after having their baby also had higher rates of post-partum depression (PPD).
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use the IUD if you have a history of depression, or have just had a baby. However, it’s worth taking note. Discuss this study with your doctor and if you do move ahead with an IUD, make an effort to keep track of your moods and symptoms. If you begin having symptoms of depression – or existing symptoms get worse – have the IUD removed (or switch to a non-progestin based birth control) to see if that helps.
They all have different life expectancies
Each IUD has a different life expectancy. Ideally, that information will be tracked in your OB/GYNs online portal so you get a reminder when it’s time to start thinking about removal or replacement. However, it’s ultimately your responsibility to get the expiration date into your calendar:
- Skyla and Liletta are good for 3-years
- Mirena and Kyleena should be replaced at the 5-year mark
- ParaGuard is good for about 12-years
Are you interested in learning more about IUD contraception to determine whether it’s the right move for you? Schedule a consultation with Women’s Health Associates and we’ll be happy to answer your questions and make recommendations based on your medical history and lifestyle.
image: By Sarahmirk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons