What is an IUD and how does it work?

13 July 2021
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    You might be surprised, but birth control methods nowadays include much more than just condoms and pills. Of course, those are still effective and most commonly used both by women and men. However, such things as patches, injections, female condoms, and IUDs become more and more popular due to their effectiveness, comfortable exploitation, prolonged working period and various other reasons.

    Today, we would like to talk about IUDs, their main characteristics, benefits and other useful information about this type of contraception. A better understanding of this topic will be helpful in case you’ll decide to try modern birth control. So, without further ado, let us begin.

    Basic information about an IUD for birth control

    IUD – a T-shaped plastic frame intrauterine device that is meant to be placed inside the uterus. There are two main types of these products – hormonal IUDs and copper IUDs. We will discuss the differences between these two categories in the next paragraph. This type of birth control prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm cells from getting inside of the egg.

    Those can be used by all healthy adult women; it is better if they have one permanent sexual partner (that’s because IUD can prevent pregnancy but cannot protect the person from STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Women who are currently pregnant, have a pelvic infection or STD, cervix or uterus cancer, and unexplained vaginal bleeding should think about the other way of contraception for themselves. IUDs also cannot be used by women who are allergic to any components of this device (copper or hormone progestin).

    This procedure is unpleasant but pretty quick, so you won’t have time to feel it fully; most women do not feel it at all. Doctors recommend taking painkillers a few hours before IUD insertion in order to reduce cramping and other painful sensations. It is better to have the IUD inserted during the periods because it is the time when the cervix is the most opened. However, it is also possible to conduct this procedure at any other time.

    After the treatment, such side effects as slight pelvic pain, severe menstrual pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, changes in the menstrual cycle, cramping, etc., are possible. There is also the risk of ectopic pregnancy, so it is better to check whether IUD is in its place and didn’t move anywhere.

    The main difference between the copper IUD and the hormonal IUD

    As we do not discuss other birth control methods (such as injections and patches), let’s talk more about hormonal and copper IUDs, the way these types of IUD work, and some important info you should be aware of.

    Hormonal IUDs contain a progestin hormone called levonorgestrel in their composition; it is released daily into the uterus. With its help, cervical mucus becomes much thicker, so it is harder for sperm to get through it. IUDs make sperm cells weaker and slower as well, so they are basically dying without the possibility to continue their “journey.” It also changes the contraction principle at fallopian tubes, and, in this way, it is harder for the egg to travel to the uterus.

    If talk about copper IUDs, it is wrapped in thin copper wire, so copper ions are released into the uterus. In this way, fluids in the fallopian tube and uterus are changed, and an inhospitable environment is created. Thus, sperm cannot fertilize the egg anymore after getting through these fluids. As it doesn’t contain hormones in its composition, you can stop worrying about such hormonal symptoms as acne and mood swings.

    The duration of these birth control options is different as well. Hormonal ones can be active for up to five years. After that, a new IUD should be inserted immediately for preventing pregnancy. The copper ones work a little longer – up to 10 years. The IUD cost for both devices is pretty similar – starting from $250.

    What are the benefits of an IUD to prevent pregnancy?

    Intrauterine devices become more and more popular every year due to a long list of benefits many women do not know. That’s why we prepared an easy and understandable list with everything you need to know before making this important decision. Consider that when deciding whether you should try an IUD for yourself:

    • It is a long-term birth control method. That means you can basically forget about this problem for 5 to 10 years (depending on the type of IUD). Of course, you should still use condoms to reduce the chances of getting an STD, but it is a basic thing every adult person is aware of;
    • IUDs work right after the insertion. Doctors recommend having some downtime to make sure everything stays in the right place, but it is not obligatory;
    • It can be used while breast feeding. Some birth control methods cannot be used by women during the lactation period because different ingredients can affect women and their babies differently and in unexpected ways;
    • You can get pregnant right after you remove the IUD. Planned parenthood is very important, so you can place an IUD into your uterus and remove it when you are ready for this important step;
    • The effectiveness of the IUD device is not affected by any other medication you take. These include supplements, different over-the-counter medications, prescription pills, and many others. But still, it is better to consult with a doctor first.

    Final word

    IUD birth control is one of the most effective methods for pregnancy prevention in the twenty-first century. Its many benefits proved that it is worth trying and giving it a chance. A possibility to stop worrying about the unwanted pregnancy – isn’t it a dream?

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