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Understanding the Different Types of IUDs

Understanding the Different Types of IUDs

When it comes to contraception, you have many choices. But how do you decide which type is right for you? If you’re looking for something long-term, an intrauterine device (IUD) might be a good choice.

Board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Hany H Ahmed offers a variety of birth control options, including IUDs, at his office in Houston, Texas. He discusses all your options at your consultation; which one he recommends depends on your health, lifestyle, and personal choices.

Here, though, he focuses on the types of IUDs and what they bring to the table.

IUDs at a glance

IUDs are a long-term, low-maintenance option for preventing unwanted pregnancy. The device is T-shaped and about the size of a quarter, and Dr. Ahmed inserts it into your uterus during a routine office visit. Once placed, you don’t need to do anything to maintain it. 

IUDs are also safe; you can use one even while breastfeeding.

What IUDs can’t do is prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), so you should use a condom together with the device to protect against infection.

There are two types of IUDs:

Hormonal IUDs

Hormonal IUDs contain progestin levonorgestrel. Progestin prevents ovaries from releasing an egg each month. It also thickens cervical mucus and thins the uterine lining, preventing sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs.

If the doctor inserts a hormonal IUD during your menstrual cycle, it starts to work immediately; if you’re between cycles, it may take up to a week before it kicks in.

Because the hormone is released throughout your body, you might experience some side effects, including:

One benefit, though, is that hormonal IUDs often make your period lighter than usual. If you suffer from heavy, painful periods, this may be another good reason to use one.

Hormonal IUDs last 3-5 years before they need replacing.

Copper IUDs

Copper IUDs are made of plastic and copper, without any hormones. They prevent pregnancy right away, no matter when you have one inserted, because copper is a natural spermicide.

Sperm run into the IUD before they can reach and fertilize an egg, and they die off. And if an egg should get fertilized, the copper makes it more difficult for it to implant in your uterus.

Copper IUDs also come with side effects, though they’re different from hormonal IUDs. They can lead to 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. That means the chance of getting pregnant with either type is less than 1%.

Copper IUDs last about 10 years, but if you decide you want to get pregnant, Dr. Ahmed can remove the device at any time.

Are you a good candidate for an IUD?

Most healthy women can get an IUD, but it works best for women with a single partner and at low risk of contracting an STD. IUDs may not be a good choice if:

Copper IUDs aren’t a good option if you’re either allergic to copper or have Wilson's disease, which causes your body to retain too much copper. And hormonal IUDs aren’t a good option if you have liver disease or breast cancer, or if you’re at high risk for breast cancer.

Looking for effective contraception? Want to learn more about IUDs? Dr. Ahmed can help. Call our office to schedule a consultation or book online with us today.

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