Sex is a normal, healthy part of life, but that doesn’t mean you always want to run the risk of getting pregnant. Fortunately, different kinds of contraception can prevent pregnancy. How do you know, though, which type is right for you?
Board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Hany H Ahmed offers a variety of birth control options at his office in Houston, Texas. One is an intrauterine device (IUD), which offers long-term, no-fuss protection.
Are IUDs safe? For the most part, yes. Here, Dr. Ahmed explains more about the IUD and when he might suggest this option for you.
IUDs are a low-maintenance option for pregnancy prevention. 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 placed, there’s nothing you need to do to maintain it.
However, IUDs alone can’t prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), so you should also use a condom during intercourse to protect against infection.
There are two types of IUDs:
1. Hormonal IUDs
Hormonal IUDs contain progestin levonorgestrel, which prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month. In addition, it thickens cervical mucus and thins the uterine lining; together, these prevent sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs.
If Dr. Ahmed inserts a hormonal IUD during your menstrual cycle, it starts working immediately. If you’re between cycles, there may be a lag of about a week before it kicks in.
Because the hormone from the IUD goes into your bloodstream, it affects your entire body. You might experience side effects, including:
- Weight gain
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular bleeding (improves after six months)
- Mood changes
- Cramping and pelvic pain
On the flip side, though, hormonal IUDs often make your period lighter than usual. If you struggle with heavy, painful periods, an IUD may be a good choice.
Hormonal IUDs last 3-5 years before they need replacing.
2. Copper IUDs
Copper IUDs don’t contain hormones; they’re made of plastic and copper. Because copper is a natural spermicide, this IUD type prevents pregnancy right away, no matter when it’s inserted.
Copper IUDs work because sperm run into the IUD before they reach and fertilize an egg. Unable to do their job, they die off. If an egg should get fertilized, the copper interferes with its implementation in your uterus, so pregnancy is unlikely.
Copper IUDs also don’t prevent the spread of STDs, so you should use a condom with them. And they do come with side effects, but they’re different from hormonal IUDs. The most common are cramping, bleeding between periods, menstrual pain, and heavy menstrual flow.
Copper IUDs are 99.2% effective against pregnancy, and hormonal IUDs are 99.8% effective. Copper IUDs last about 10 years, but if you decide to get pregnant , Dr. Ahmed can simply remove the device.
Is an IUD safe?
IUDs are safe for most women, but they work best if women have a single partner and are at low risk of contracting an STD. IUDs may not be good for you if:
- You already have an STD
- You’ve had a recent pelvic infection
- You’re already pregnant
- You have cancer of the uterus or cervix
- You have unexplained vaginal bleeding
Copper IUDs aren’t a good option if you’re allergic to copper or have Wilson's disease, a condition that causes your body to retain too much copper.
Hormonal IUDs aren’t a good option if you have liver disease or breast cancer or are at high risk of breast cancer, as the hormones can fuel the tumor’s growth.
Looking for safe and effective contraception? Want to learn more about IUDs? Dr. Ahmed can help. Call our office to schedule a consultation, or book online today.