Intrauterine device or IUD is a small plastic T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The two types of intrauterine device most commonly used are Copper-T and hormonal device. Copper-T is made of flexible plastic with copper wire wrapped around the stem and copper sleeves wrapped on the side arms.
Hormonal device is also made of flexible plastic that consists of slow releasing progestin in the plastic. Both devices have threads attached to the bottom of the T plastic which hang out of the cervix into the vagina. Copper-T can provide effective contraception for up to 12 years and hormonal device can provide effective contraception for up to 5 years.
In the United States Copper-T is marketed under the brand name Paragard and hormonal device is marketed under the brand name Mirena. Paragard was developed in 1984 and currently this is the only brand of Copper-T device available in the United States. Progestasert T was the first hormonal intrauterine device developed in 1976 and discontinued in 2001. Mirena was first introduced in 1990 and currently this is the only brand of hormonal intrauterine device available in the United States.
How it Works
IUD is available from health care provider and the insertion is usually performed by a doctor or nurse. Intrauterine device is inserted into the uterus and left in place for 5 to 12 years depending on whether it is Copper-T (Paragard) or hormonal device (Mirena). Insertion of IUD is usually performed during your menstrual cycle.
When using intrauterine device you will need to do monthly check on the string after your menstrual period to ensure the string is the same length as when the device was initially put into place. You or your partner can check the string by inserting a finger into the vagina while you are in squatting position or bearing down.
Normally the string can be felt in the middle of the cervix and at anytime the string cannot be located by you or your partner it is best to seek help from health care practitioners. Sometime the device may be expelled from the body and you can noticed this when the string seem longer than the usual length which means the plastic is protruding out of the cervix.
Copper-T (Paragard) prevents pregnancy by affecting the way sperm move which prevents sperm from fertilizing the egg. Copper-T also affects the lining of the uterus which prevents released egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus.
The progestin from hormonal device (Mirena) work by preventing ovaries from releasing eggs and pregnancy cannot happen without egg fertilization. The progestin also works by thickening the mucus layer in the cervix which blocks sperm from entering into the uterus. The progestin also thins the lining of the uterus which prevents the released egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus.
This device should only be used by women who have no previous history of sexually transmitted diseases or pelvic inflammatory disease. You should be at least 25 years of age or older have at least one child or completed childbearing and have access to medical facilities.
If you have gonorrhea or Chlamydia you should avoid using intrauterine device as the procedure can cause the bacteria be pushed further into the uterus causing more harm than good. If you are in treatment for cervical cancer you should wait until the treatment is completed before using IUD.
Once IUD is put into place it can provides effective contraception for 5 to 12 years depending on whether you are using Copper-T (Paragard) or hormonal device (Mirena). You can engage in spontaneous sexual activity without having to worry about birth control and fear of pregnancy.
There are no additional expenses beyond the initial cost of the device, medical exam and insertion that may be in the range of $400 to $1,000 which is inexpensive as you are paying for long term protection that can last from 5 to 12 years.
If you do not prefer hormonal device because of related side effects you can use Copper-T which does not interfere with your hormone levels. The use of hormonal device may also help to reduce menstrual period and cramps.
IUD can be used during breast feeding and it can also be used as emergency contraceptive which is as effective as emergency contraceptive pills when inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. IUD can be removed at anytime and if you decide to get pregnant, the process can be reversed quickly after the device is removed.
IUD does not provide full protection against sexually transmitted diseases. The device can caused pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) if bacteria are introduced into the uterus during insertion. It can also intensify existing gonorrhea infection making it more difficult to treat the disease. If you have uterine infection the device need to be removed during treatment and it can also caused fallopian tube problems that can results in infertility.
Some of the symptoms associated with the use of intrauterine device may include late period, abdominal pain, fever, nasty discharge, and spotting. During initial insertion of the device some women may experience discomfort, cramping, bleeding, and pain.
The device may also protrude out of the cervix and in some rare
cases, it can also break through the uterine wall and slip into the
abdominal cavity. An indication of this happening would be the string
becoming shorter and you should seek professional help right away. You
can become pregnant if the device slips out of place and if you become
pregnant with intrauterine device still in place you have high risk of
getting ectopic pregnancy, pelvic infection, miscarriage and early
Return from IUD to Contraception
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