The IUD might sound a little space age but it just stands for Intrauterine Device, intrauterine meaning inside the uterus. It might look strange but it is a highly effective, small, T-shaped device containing a copper thread or cylinders which is placed in the uterus by your healthcare provider. The IUD releases copper ions which immobilizes the sperm and makes it really hard for them to move around in the womb, but does not stop the ovaries from making an egg each month. On the rare occasion a sperm does get through, the copper stops a fertilized egg from implanting itself to the lining too. The IUD, once inserted into the womb, can stay in place for up 5 or 10 years (depending on the type) or until you decide to remove it. Not space age at all – just good sense.
Once your healthcare provider has made sure the IUD is a suitable method for you based on your medical history and you’ve decided to use it, there really isn’t much to do.
The IUD is inserted into the woman’s womb through her vagina by a well-trained healthcare provider where it stays for up to 5 or 10 years depending on the type. You can of course change your mind at any point and your healthcare provider will simply take it out again for you. After the IUD is removed, the contraceptive effect wears off quickly and you can become pregnant as rapidly as women who have used no contraceptive at all.
The copper IUD is highly effective, however, it is not a method that is suitable for everyone. This is why, to be sure, discuss the method with your healthcare provider beforehand to make sure it’s right for you.
PROS AND CONS
It can stay in place for up to 5 or 10 years (depending on the type), but can be removed any time
At 99%, it’s one of the most effective contraceptive methods
Suitable for women who want long-acting reversible contraception for up to 5 or 10 years and wish to avoid daily, weekly or monthly regimen
It doesn’t interrupt sex
It isn’t affected by other medications
It can also be used as emergency contraception, if inserted within five days after unprotected sex
It can offer an alternative to those affected by the hormone estrogen
It can be used when breastfeeding
Fertility returns to previous levels once the IUD is removed
It requires a trained healthcare provider for insertion and removal
It may causes cramps and/or irregular bleeding
Some women experience headaches, tenderness and acne after an IUD is fitted
Small risk of infection at insertion and of expulsion
Does not protect against HIV infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is it painful to have an IUD inserted?
An IUD (Intrauterine Device) insertion is usually well tolerated by most women. Local anesthesia may be applied to the uterine cervix prior to the insertion. Some women may experience pain and dizziness after insertion, which usually settles after resting for a short time.
Can the IUD be used as emergency contraception?
The IUD can be used as an emergency contraception and must be inserted within 5 to 8 days (ideally within 120 hours) after unprotected sex. Because of the insertion procedure, the IUD is not suitable to be used regularly as emergency contraception.
Will my partner or I feel it during sex?
Neither you nor your partner should feel the IUD during sexual intercourse. If you do, sexual intercourse should be avoided until your doctor has checked that the IUD is still in the correct position.
Can the IUD come out or get stuck in my uterus?
The IUD must be inserted by a trained healthcare provider who will follow the necessary procedure to ensure it is correctly positioned. Occasionally, the muscular contractions of the womb during menstruation may sometimes push it out of place or expel it. Very rarely it can perforate the wall of the uterus. If a user of an IUD experiences any unusual bleeding, pain or discomfort, her doctor must be informed as soon as possible.
Is it safe to wear tampons during my period if I have an IUD fitted?
Use of sanitary pads is recommended. If tampons are used, you should change them more frequently, and with care so as not to pull the threads of the IUD when manipulating the tampon.
Will I bleed after having an IUD fitted?
Women using an IUD are more likely to experience an increase in blood loss each month than non-users. This typically occurs because of increased duration and heaviness of menstrual flow, but may also result from irregular bleeding and spotting in between periods.
How long is it safe to have an IUD fitted for?
An IUD can be left in place from 5 up to 10 years, depending on the type. After this time, it will need to be replaced with a new device. If this method of contraception has worked well for you, and if you still wish to use a long-term contraceptive option, then you can discuss with your doctor or healthcare provider about continuing with this method.
Will an IUD affect my periods?
Women with an IUD can experience an increased duration and heaviness of menstrual flow.