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How Does an IUD Work?

How Does an IUD Work?

Sexual intercourse is a natural, healthy part of life, but you may not always want to get pregnant as a result. That’s where contraception comes in. There are many types of contraception, including the intrauterine (IUD) device, which can be a long-term solution for birth control.

At the OB/GYN office of Dr. Hany H Ahmed in Houston, Texas, Dr. Ahmed offers a variety of birth control options, including IUDs. Which one is right for you depends on your health, lifestyle, and personal choices, and Dr. Ahmed discusses all your options with you at your consultation.

Here, though, let’s focus on what the IUD brings to the table.

All about the IUD

An IUD is a long-term, low-maintenance option for preventing pregnancy. It’s a T-shaped device about the size of a quarter that Dr. Ahmed inserts into your uterus during an office visit. Once placed, there’s nothing you need to do to maintain it. 

Unlike other birth control methods, you can use an IUD even while breastfeeding.

IUDs don’t prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), so you should use a condom in addition to the device for added protection.

There are two types of IUDs:

1. Hormonal IUDs

Hormonal IUDs contain the hormone progestin levonorgestrel. If you have a hormonal IUD inserted during your menstrual cycle, it works immediately; if you’re between cycles, it can take up to a week before it starts to work. 

Progestin prevents your ovaries from releasing an egg each month. It also thickens your cervical mucus and thins the lining around your uterus, preventing sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs that have been released.

Because the hormone is released systemically, you might experience some side effects as your body gets used to the increased level:

One benefit, though, is that hormonal IUDs tend to make your period lighter than usual, so if you suffer from heavy, painful periods, this may be a good option to address that too.

Hormonal IUDs last 3-5 years before needing to be replaced.

2. Copper IUDs

Copper IUDs are made of plastic and copper, without any hormones. No matter when you have one inserted, it starts preventing pregnancy right away. That’s because copper is a spermicide, literally “sperm killer.” 

Sperm encounter the IUD before they can reach an egg and fertilize it, and they die off. Copper also makes it more difficult for fertilized eggs to implant in your uterus.

Unlike hormonal IUDs, copper devices can lead to bleeding between periods, cramping, menstrual pain, and heavy menstrual flow.

Copper IUDs are 99.2% effective against pregnancy, and hormonal IUDs are 99.8% effective, so the chance of you getting pregnant with either is less than 1%. Copper IUDs last about 10 years.

And if you decide that you want to get pregnant, you can have Dr. Ahmed remove the device at any time.

Are you a good candidate for an IUD?

Most healthy women can get an IUD, but it’s especially suited to women with a single partner and at low risk of contracting an STD. IUDs may not be suitable if:

In addition, you can’t use copper IUDs if you’re allergic to copper or have Wilson's disease, which causes your body to retain too much copper. And you can’t use hormonal IUDs if you have liver disease or breast cancer or are at high risk for breast cancer.

Thinking about getting an IUD and want to learn more? Call Dr. Ahmed’s office at 713-489-3348 to schedule a consultation, or book online.

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