If you’re thinking about switching up your birth control routine, consider the IUD. Overall, this method of birth control is low maintenance, cost effective (in most cases), extremely long wearing, and one of the most potent forms of birth control on the market.
What is it?
The IUD (intrauterine device) is essentially a small two in piece of medical grade plastic that comes to a “T” formation at the top. It is used to prevent unwanted pregnancies and comes in two popular styles – copper and hormonal.
Copper IUDs have a small amount of copper wrapped around the device itself. The metal interacts with our bodies and prevents pregnancy using no hormones whatsoever.
On the other hand, hormonal IUDs use the same method as the birth control pill. Although, the hormonal IUD uses a lower dose and the hormone is injected directly into the uterus due to the placement of the device.
How does it Work?
Each device will be carefully inserted by a physician into the uterus, where it will comfortably sit for the remainder of usage.
Once the unit has been inserted, it will almost immediately begin to block pregnancy, especially the copper IUD since your body doesn’t have to absorb any hormones in order to become effective. It is recommended that each patient wait 7 days after the procedure before having unprotected sex. However, after that time, each of these methods have been proven 99.9% effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies.
For copper IUDs, when inserted, our bodies react with the metal and produce a film around the uterus, which kills any sperm that enters. In addition, it also slightly irritates all of the skin in the uterus (you won’t feel it). This means that even if somehow some sperm survived and fertilized an egg, it wouldn’t be able to attach itself to the uterus.
Basically, the hormonal method performs three actions. First, it creates a layer of mucus around the uterus which blocks sperm from entering the fallopian tubes and cannot fertilize an egg. Second, it slows the rate at which ovulation occurs, meaning and eve less chance of fertilization overall. Lastly, the mucus is thought to actually lower chances of sperm survival inside of the uterus.
Based on the fact that IUDs are almost immediately effective, they become ineffective as soon as they are removed. Once your physician removes the device, you can immediately become pregnant if you decide to continue having unprotected sex.
Hormones or No Hormones
This is something that each woman should discuss with her doctor. There are benefits to having either hormonal or nonhormonal birth control.
Hormonal IUDs act in a similar fashion to birth control pills, in that they slow ovulation and can make periods much lighter (or even non existent) and less painful. So, if you are a victim of chronic heavy, uncomfortable periods, hormones might make your life a bit easier. Yet, some still prefer to maintain a period just for the peace of mind knowing they are not pregnant. Others also feel that hormonal birth control has some side effects on their bodies including mood swings and weight fluctuation, but this has no scientific backing to prove its truth.
Copper IUDs commonly have the opposite effect. The copper IUD does not slow ovulation since the mucus formed inside of the uterus kills any sperm before it has a chance to fertilize an egg. As a result, women who use the copper IUD can experience intense cramping and heavier periods than they are used to.
Insertion, Upkeep, and Removal Process
In most cases the insertion and removal process is quite simple. Your doctor will fold down the two sides of the “T” on your IUD and will insert the unit into your uterus by opening and passing through your cervix. The removal process is exactly the same. Keep in mind that everybody is different and as such some women may not experience pain during this procedure and other may experience some discomfort and pain.
No matter the case, the process is quite simple and only takes a couple of minutes to perform the actual procedure. You may experience some slight discomfort afterwards, but should be able to go about your day as usual after the process is complete.
If you are feeling severe cramping or pain after your insertion or removal give your doctor a call or pay them a visit to make sure everything is sitting correctly.
Each IUD has two very thin strings that will sit inside of the vagina, peaking out from the cervix. These will need to be checked by you each month to make sure the device is still in place. The strings should hand down far enough that you can feel them with a finger, but not far enough that the strings extrude from the vagina. Your doctor will go over this upkeep procedure with you, but it only takes seconds to check the strings.
Since the hormonal IUD contains a limited amount of progestin, the unit will need to be replaced about every 5 years.
The copper IUD will technically never lose its effectiveness. So, this device can be worn for anywhere between 10-14 years.
Talk to your doctor about these options and they will tell you exactly when they suggest removal.
Preventing Pregnancy vs Preventing STIs
IUDs are a wonderful contraceptive option for all ages of women. Not only is this method extremely effective at preventing pregnancy, it requires zero upkeep once inserted. There are no daily pills or monthly doctor visits required. Your physician will tell you to check your strings monthly to ensure that the IUD is still sitting in a comfortable position, but aside from the quick string check, these are the most low-maintenance birth control option on the market.
With that being said, this method does not prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections or diseases. It is critical that you and your partner(s) be checked for STIs before deciding to engage in unprotected sex. Otherwise, the only way to prevent STIs is to use a proven STI prohibiting method, such as a condom.
All in all, the IUD is a stress free birth control method with superior effectiveness and can be removed at any time. Whether you choose the hormonal or copper IUD, the results will be almost identical, as far as preventing pregnancy goes. The rest is simply up to your personal preference.
Trisha is a writer from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan who promotes an all-around healthy lifestyle. You can find her on twitter @thatdangvegan or check out her blog thatdangvegan.com