If you’re looking for contraception, there are many options. If you want something long-term with no muss, no fuss, an intrauterine device (IUD) might be a good choice.
Board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Hany H Ahmed offers a variety of contraception options, including IUDs, at his office in Houston, Texas. When you come in for a consultation, he discusses your options; his recommendation depends on your health, lifestyle, and personal choices.
Here, he focuses on the two types of IUDs and whether they’re safe.
IUDs at a glance
An IUD is a long-term, low-maintenance way to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The T-shaped device is about the size of a quarter, and Dr. Ahmed inserts it into your uterus during a routine office visit. Once he’s done, there’s nothing more you have to do.
IUDs, though, don’t prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Use a condom with the IUD to protect against infection.
There are two types of IUDs:
1. Hormonal IUDs
Hormonal IUDs contain progestin levonorgestrel. That prevents ovaries from releasing an egg, thickens cervical mucus, and thins the uterine lining; all prevent sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs.
If the doctor inserts the IUD during your menstrual cycle, it begins working immediately; if you’re between cycles, it may take a week to kick in.
Because the hormone is systemic (released throughout your body), you might experience some side effects, including:
- Weight gain
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular bleeding (improves after six months)
- Mood changes
- Cramping and pelvic pain
A major benefit, though, is that hormonal IUDs can make your period lighter than usual, so if you have heavy, painful periods, that may be another good reason to use an IUD.
Hormonal IUDs last 3-5 years before they need to be replaced.
2. Copper IUDs
Copper IUDs are the same size and shape as hormonal IUDs, but they’re made of plastic and copper, without any hormones. Copper is a natural spermicide, so these IUDs prevent pregnancy right away, no matter when they’re inserted.
Sperm encounter the IUD before they reach and fertilize an egg, and they simply die off. If an egg should get fertilized, though, the copper makes it harder for it to implant in your uterus.
Copper IUDs also have side effects, but they’re different from hormonal IUDs. The main issues are cramping, bleeding between periods, menstrual pain, and heavy menstrual flow.
Copper IUDs are 99.2% effective against getting pregnant, and hormonal IUDs are 99.8% effective. Your chance of getting pregnant is less than 1%, no matter which one you choose.
Copper IUDs last about 10 years. However, if you decide to get pregnant, Dr. Ahmed can remove the IUD anytime.
Are you a good candidate for an IUD?
Most healthy women are good candidates for IUDs, but they work best for women with a single partner and who are at low risk of contracting an STD. IUDs may not be a good choice if:
- You have an STD
- You’ve had a recent pelvic infection
- You’re already pregnant
- You have cancer of the cervix or uterus
- You have unexplained vaginal bleeding
Copper IUDs aren’t a safe option if you’re allergic to copper or have Wilson's disease, a condition where your body retains too much copper. And hormonal IUDs aren’t recommended if you have liver disease or breast cancer, or if you’re at high risk for breast cancer.
Otherwise, IUDs are a safe and long-lasting contraception option. They’re also safe if you’re breastfeeding.
Are you looking for a good birth control option that doesn’t require any hassle? An IUD might be the right, safe choice for you. Call our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ahmed, or book online today.