IUDs, or intrauterine devices used for preventing pregnancy, date back nearly 100 years. Half a century later, the modern IUD is a highly effective, long acting and convenient method. IUDs are used by millions of women worldwide. In the United States, the pill and the male condom are the most commonly used forms of contraception but these methods require perfect use in order to be effective. In the U.S., 49% of pregnancies are unintended despite the availability of safe and effective forms of contraception. Less than 3% of women in the U.S. are reported to use a long acting reversible method like the IUD. Unfortunately, there have been cost barriers, fears and a lack of understanding about IUDs and as a result, they have been overlooked and underutilized for many years. Many of the misconceptions about the safety of IUDs come from an early IUD that was linked to serious pelvic infections. Lack of understanding of how these devices work is another reason women are reluctant to use them. IUDs prevent pregnancy by not allowing the male sperm to reach the female egg for fertilization. They do not cause miscarriages to occur each month.
Currently there are 4 IUDs available for ALL women regardless of age and whether or not they have had a baby. The IUDs are small, T-shaped, soft and flexible and either contain copper or synthetic progesterone. IUDs are safe and over 99% effective. IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections, so a condom is recommended for sex. An IUD is placed in the woman's uterus during an office visit. Once placed in the uterus, it is not felt by the women or her sexual partner.
Paragard is the only non-hormonal IUD available. It is an ideal method for women who don't tolerate or are unable to use hormones. It contains plastic and copper and is the longest lasting method, providing contraception for up to 10 years. The copper acts as a spermicide and the device is an irritant to the lining of the uterus. Paragard users initially may have heavier, longer periods with more cramping. This typically subsides by 4-6 months after insertion.
Mirena is a hormonal IUD containing progesterone that lasts for up to 5 years. Pregnancy is prevented by several mechanisms that do not allow the sperm to reach/fertilize the egg. Menstrual bleeding is reduced so significantly the FDA approved Mirena in 2010 as a treatment method for women with heavy periods. Some women do not have any periods while using Mirena. Recently a similar IUD, Lyletta, was approved by the FDA. Lyletta contains the same amount of progsterone as Mirena but is approved for 3 years of use.
Skyla is the smallest hormonal IUD. Made by the same company as Mirena, it contains 75% less progesterone. It can lighten periods but not as much as Mirena. Skyla lasts for 3 years.
IUDs are becoming increasingly popular as women seek effective, affordable contraception. Ask us if an IUD is right for you.