What Is an IUD?
An intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small, thin, t-shaped device. It is extremely flexible and made out of plastic. An IUD is a form of contraception must be correctly inserted into the uterus by a physician or nurse practitioner. Once in place, it can prevent pregnancy.
Women can choose between two brands of IUD: Mirena and Para Guard. The main difference between the two is the number of years each method is effective. Mirena is effective for 5 years as it releases progestin in tiny amounts, but enough to prevent pregnancy. Para Guard is effective for 12 years as it contains copper.
How Does an IUD Work?
An IUD works to prevent pregnancy as it blocks the sperm from joining with the egg. In the Mirena IUD, the progestin hormone prohibits ovulation from occurring. Ovulation occurs when eggs are released from the female’s ovaries. The Para Guard is wrapped in copper, and copper is toxic to sperm. In turn, the IUD helps the uterus generate fluid that kills sperm.
Inserting the IUD is simple, but must be done in a doctor’s office. It only takes a few minutes for the procedure to be completed. A local anesthetic may be administered, but most women do not need any pain relief. The method is simple, quick and usually painless. After inserted, you will be able to feel a small string (similar to a tampon string). Be careful not to pull or manipulate the string as you may shift the IUD out of place.
If the IUD does shift out of place, there is no need to worry. This usually happens in the first several weeks after insertion, although it can also occur at a later time. If you think that your IUD is out of place or has fallen out, check with your physician to have it reinserted. Make sure you use another contraceptive method until you can be seen by the physician.
The IUD does not interfere with your monthly period. However, you must check for the string at least for the first several weeks. Use the following method for checking your IUD string:
- Always wash your hands with antibacterial soap
- Sit down on a comfortable surface (usually a toilet works best)
- Place one of your fingers inside the vagina until you can feel your cervix
- Feel for the end of the string
- If you feel a string, then your IUD is in place
- If the string feels longer or shorter than when you last felt it, call your healthcare provider
- Never try to replace or reinsert the IUD yourself
- Never pull on the end of the string
If you want your IUD removed, call your physician and they can remove it for you. Again, do not attempt to remove your IUD yourself as it is very dangerous and can lead to complications.
Is an IUD Effective?
Statistically, IUDs are extremely effective. Less than 1 percent of women who use either the Mirena or Para Guard IUD become pregnant each year.
An IUD prevents pregnancy, but it does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Make sure that a condom is used in conjunction with the IUD to prevent any STDs or infections.
If you are looking for emergency birth control, the Para Guard IUD is highly effective if inserted within 5 days of intercourse. It is 99.9 percent effective in preventing pregnancy if used in this manner.
Advantages of an IUD
Besides being the least expensive and most long-term methods of birth control, the Mirena and Para Guard IUDs have many other benefits:
- The Para Guard IUD contains copper, therefore women do not have to endure any hormone changes
- The Mirena IUD has been known to decrease menstrual flow by over 90 percent. Some women report that their periods stop altogether
- Women who are breastfeeding can safely use an IUD
- You can get pregnant immediately after an IUD is removed, and there is no downtime
Disadvantages of an IUD?
Even though 99 percent of women are satisfied with their IUD, there are some disadvantages.
- If you are used to having a regular period, this may change with an IUD
- Mirena decreases menstrual flow, but Para Guard may cause up to a 75 percent increase.
- Backaches or more menstrual pain than usual can occur
- Some women take a few months to get used to the IUD
- Bleeding and cramping can occur during the first several weeks after insertion
There are a few important things to look out for after you have inserted your IUD:
- If you have not been pregnant before, the IUD can shift or slide out of the uterus. You can become pregnant if the IUD is not properly placed.
- Although uncommon, infections can occur during use of an IUD. This can happen if some types of bacteria get inside the uterus once it has been inserted. If the infection is not treated, it can have an effect on whether a woman can get pregnant in the future.
Below is a list of complications that can occur during use of an IUD. Contact your healthcare provider or physician if you experience any of these symptoms:
- The IUD string has moved
- You can not feel the IUD string at all
- Have a feeling that you are pregnant
- Have completely abnormal menstrual cycles
- You experience painful intercourse
- You have fever or flu-like symptoms
- Have abnormal pain, cramps, or bleeding
When Can I Have Intercourse?
You can have intercourse soon after the IUD is inserted. The Para Guard IUD is effective upon insertion, and the Mirena IUD is effective immediately only if it has been inserted within 7 days after the first day of your period.
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