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IUD Birth Control

Reasons to Have One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

3 Reasons You Would Need IUD Birth Control

1. Prevent Pregnancy

IUD birth control prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg so women who use this device can avoid becoming pregnant. IUDs are shaped like the letter T to help block sperm and prevent them from reaching the egg. Some IUDs release copper ions that are toxic to sperm, while others release a hormone called progestin that prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg. IUDs also thicken cervical mucus and thin the lining of the uterus to make it more difficult for sperm to get inside and fertilize an egg.[1]

2. Reduce Endometrial Cancer Risk

IUDs are found to trigger more complete shedding of the endometrial lining, which is the tissue that lines the wall of the uterus. This could result in the removal of cells that are abnormal, premalignant, or hyperplastic—all of which have the potential to develop into endometrial cancer.[2] Women who have endometrial cancer risk factors such as being obese, over the age of 50, or having a family history of this disease can choose IUDs over other birth control methods to reduce their risk for this cancer.[3]

3. Reduce Cervical Cancer Risk

IUDs are shown to trigger an immune response in the body that targets and clears HPV cells from the cervix and also inhibits the development of precancerous cells and lesions.[4] Cervical cancer is caused by HPV, which promotes the growth and multiplication of cancerous cells in the cervix.[5] Women who have HPV or who want to reduce their risk for cervical cancer can choose IUD over other birth control methods to achieve a better health outcome.

Understanding IUD Birth Control

An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a small, plastic device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. These devices are shaped like a T to block sperm from reaching the egg. An IUD can be used long-term to prevent pregnancy for between 3 and 10 years, and it can also be used as emergency contraception when inserted within 5 days of having unprotected sex.

IUDs are usually inserted into a woman’s uterus by a primary care doctor or gynecologist during menstruation.[6] This ensures that a woman is not pregnant at the time of IUD insertion, and also the cervix is usually open wider during menstruation to allow for easier insertion.

There are 2 types of IUDs: those that release copper, and those that release progestin.

Copper-releasing IUDs start working immediately after insertion and last up to 10 years. Copper-releasing IUDs are toxic to sperm and can be used for emergency contraception. Progestin-releasing IUDs start working within 7 days of insertion and last between 3 and 5 years. The Progestin released prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg. Some brands of progestin-releasing IUDs also reduce cramps and heavy menstrual bleeding.[1]

Risks of IUD Birth Control

IUDs are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, which means less than 1% of women who use these devices will still get pregnant.[1] However, these women face a higher risk for ectopic pregnancy, which is a life-threatening pregnancy that occurs outside of the womb.[6]

An IUD may also slip out of place or penetrate the uterine wall, in which case surgery is required to safely remove the device.[6] Other risks associated with the use of IUDs include an increased risk for benign ovarian cysts and irregular bleeding and spotting between periods. Women who use copper-releasing IUDs may experience cramps and longer, heavier periods.[1]

What to Expect with IUD Birth Control

An IUD is placed inside a plastic tube that is inserted into the vagina and through the cervix into the uterus. During your appointment for an IUD placement, your doctor will first wash your cervix using an antiseptic solution. Next, the doctor will slide the plastic tube containing the IUD into your uterus using a small plunger, and then remove the tube.[6]

There will be two small strings attached to the IUD that dangle outside the cervix and inside your vagina. These strings help you and your doctor confirm that the IUD is staying in its proper position, and are used later by your doctor to remove the IUD at a later time.[6]

The insertion of an IUD may cause some pain and discomfort, as well as dizziness, lightheadedness, and cramping. If you are concerned about feeling pain during the procedure, your doctor may apply a local anesthetic. You may experience cramping and backaches that can last anywhere between 1 and 2 days to several weeks or months. Over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen may help reduce these symptoms.[6]

Women who receive progestin-releasing IUDs are advised to use a back-up form of birth control such as condoms for at least 7 days until the device starts working to prevent pregnancy. Your doctor will request that you visit for a follow-up appointment 2 to 4 weeks after the insertion of the IUD to confirm it’s still in place.[6]

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About IUD Birth Control

  • Which IUD is right for me?
  • Is one type of IUD safer than the other?
  • How should I prepare for my IUD appointment?
  • Will the insertion of the IUD feel painful?
  • Can I have an IUD inserted when I’m not menstruating?
  • How long will I experience cramping and bleeding after IUD insertion?
  • How long do I need to wait before having unprotected sex?
  • Can I still wear tampons, menstrual cups, or menstrual discs after getting an IUD?
  • What should I do if I can’t feel the strings on my IUD?
  • Will an IUD affect my fertility if I decide to get pregnant later on?
  • How long will my IUD last?
  • When should I come in to replace my IUD?
  • Can I have the IUD removed at any time?
  • Will an IUD affect the length of my menstrual cycle?
  • Will an IUD cause my hormones to change like with birth control pills?
  • Can an IUD travel from my uterus to other parts of my body?
  • Will my partner feel my IUD during sexual intercourse?

IUD Birth Control May Also be Known as:

  • Intrauterine device
  • Birth control
  • Intrauterine
  • Contraception
  • Intrauterine system
  • IUS



Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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