The IUD (Intrauterine Device) is a little, t-shaped piece of plastic that is placed in the uterus. It alters the way sperm moves and prevents fertilization. IUDs offer years of protection—between three and twelve, depending on the type you get.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE IUD
There are four hormonal IUDs available in the U.S.—Mirena, Skyla, LILETTA, and Kyleena. All three are made of plastic and release a small amount of the synthetic hormone progestin, which thickens your cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching the uterus. Depending what kind you get, hormonal IUDs can last between 3 and 7 years and may make your periods lighter.
There’s only one IUD without hormones available in the U.S. It’s called Paragard and it’s made of plastic and a small amount of natural, safe copper. Paragard doesn’t affect your periods and can work for up to 12 years.
BENEFITS OF IUD
Get it and forget it
If you’re a busy person who doesn’t want to worry about remembering birth control, the IUD just may be for you. Once it’s in, you’re good to go for anywhere from 3 to 12 years.
No packages or prescriptions to pick up at the pharmacy, so there’s nothing that could get lost or forgotten
No one can tell when you have an IUD. (Some partners say they can feel the strings, but no one else will know it’s there.) There’s no tell-tale packaging, and nothing you need to do just before you have sex.
Safe and sound
Most experts agree, if you’re healthy and have a uterus, you’re probably a good candidate for the IUD. That’s true even if you’re young, haven’t ever been pregnant, or haven’t had kids yet. It’s also a great method for new moms (even if you’re breastfeeding).
How to use it
You can get the IUD inserted any time of the month. Some providers like to insert it during your period, but any time is fine as long as you can be sure you’re not pregnant. It may be the most comfortable to get it done during the middle of your period. (That’s when your cervix—the opening to your uterus—is open the most.)
It’s pretty common to feel some cramps when you get an IUD inserted, but they’ll go away with rest or pain medication. Some people might feel dizzy, too. Once the IUD is in, you’ll notice a little string that hangs down into your vagina. That’s there so that the IUD can be removed later.
After it’s in, there’s really not much you have to do other than check the string ends from time to time to make sure it’s in place.
- Wash your hands, then sit or squat down.
- Put your finger in your vagina until you touch your cervix, which will feel firm and rubbery like the tip of your nose.
- Feel for the strings. If you find them, your IUD is still in place. But if you feel the hard part of the IUD against your cervix, you may need to have it adjusted or replaced by your provider.
Please note that after the IUD is inserted, that you must not tug on the strings. If you do, the IUD could move out of place.
If you don’t feel comfortable checking for the strings, you can let us do that the month after insertion, and then yearly after that.
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