What Is An IUD?


Talk to your doctor to learn more about IUDs. Source: ShutterStock

For a long time, my understanding of contraceptives was birth control pills, condoms and then the other stuff. I knew that the “other” options existed, but I didn’t know much about them. One method of birth control that would fall under this category is the IUD.

The first thing to know is that IUD stands for intrauterine device. So what is it? Basically, it’s a little piece of plastic in a T-shape that is inserted into your uterus by a medical professional. It prevents pregnancy by interfering with the sperm’s ability to reach an egg to fertilize.

Two IUD brands you may have heard of are Mirena and ParaGuard. Mirena is meant to last up to 5 years and it will release the hormone progestin levonorgestrel during that period. It can also be used as a way to regulate heavy periods. ParaGuard has copper, but doesn’t release hormones. It lasts for up to 10 years and also can be used as a form of emergency contraception.

In terms of effectiveness as a birth control, every year less than 1 out of every 100 women will get pregnant when using either of these IUD options. It’s important to remember that IUDs do not protect against STDs (so even IUD users should still use a condom!). Also, keep in mind that IUDs don’t have to be super permanent. You can leave them in for years if you want, but at the same time, your doctor can remove it whenever you want.

According to the book Our Bodies, Ourselves (published by The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, and in my opinion, is a must own), IUDs are actually a very popular birth control option worldwide, but there’s some history as to why it is a less popular option in the US. In the 1980s there was a lawsuit regarding one unsafe IUD that caused pelvic infections, and all IUDs were actually taken off the market for a period. Even though the IUDs out today have been found to be safer options, that whole situation from years ago left some lasting harm on the reputation of IUDs.

Back in the fall, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology released a paper with guidelines for medical professionals, in which they said IUDs should be offered as a birth control option for teenagers. Even more recently, news came out about a new IUD called Skyla that is smaller than other IUDs and meant to address the needs of younger women.

If you want to learn more about IUDs, make an appointment to talk with your doctor who can further explain any processes or side effects when it comes to IUDs. Most importantly, they can work with you to find the birth control method that makes the most sense for you. No matter what option you may decide to use, it’s at least worth knowing all the types of birth control options out there!

Have you heard about IUDs? Have you ever discussed IUDs with your doctor? Tell us in the comments.


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