For those that want more protection than condoms and birth control comes the intrauterine device (IUD). The IUD is a small, plastic T-shaped device that is wrapped in copper or contains hormones. It is placed in the uterus by your doctor, and has a string attached to the end that hangs down into your vagina. The string is used to pull out the IUD and also to confirm that the device is inside. The way it works is the intrauterine device prevents the fertilization of the egg by killing or damaging sperm. There are two main types: hormonal and copper IUD.
Hormonal Intrauterine Device
Mirena (Levonorgestrel) is an example of a hormonal IUD. The intrauterine device releases a consistent, low dosage of synthetic progesterone to prevent pregnancy. Fertilization of the egg is prevented by damaging or killing sperm. The IUD stimulates the creation of a thick and sticky mucus in the cervix so sperm can’t reach the uterus. In addition, it also keeps the lining of the uterus from growing very thick. This weak lining makes a poor place for a fertilized egg to implant and grow. Hormonal IUDs are approved for use for up to 5 years.
Let’s talk about side effects. The use of hormonal IUD can result in ovarian cysts (benign growths) which usually go away on its own. It also causes breast tenderness, mood swings, headaches, nausea, pelvic pain and acne. There is a risk of pregnancy if the IUD gets expelled from the uterus into the vagina.
Copper Intrauterine Device
ParaGard (IUD) is and example of a copper IUD. This intrauterine device is a piece of plastic wrapped in copper that contains no hormones. This is a simpler process since you are in essence sticking a piece of copper into the uterus. Copper is toxic to sperm. This IUD makes the uterus and fallopian tubes produce fluid which contains white blood cells, copper ions and enzymes that kill sperm. Copper IUDs are approved for use for up to 10 years and are mostly recommended for emergency contraception.
Copper intrauterine devices have side effects also which include an increase in menstrual bleeding or cramps. It can increase spotting between the first few periods, lower abdominal pain, and can cause back pain. There is a chance of the uterus being punctured since you are in essence putting metal into your body. Obviously if you are allergic to copper, this is not an option for you since you might develop an allergic reaction. Please don’t go to Home Depot and try and make your own.
Both IUDs are effective (6 in 1000) at minimizing the risk of pregnancy but they do come with some risks. This will not help you fight off sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and you can’t use them if you have an STD. This will cause infection in your body and make things worse. If you have had cancer in the cervix or uterus or believe that you are pregnant, you can forget about this option. As a positive note, once you remove the IUDs, the ability to become pregnant returns quickly. I am wondering, has anyone successfully used an intrauterine device without any side effects?