Sunday, December 28, 2008

All About the IUD

When thinking about birth control, it's important to know about all of your options. So I'm going to post about all the choices on your contraception menu, one at a time.

The intrauterine device, also known as the IUD, is one of the oldest forms of birth control. Women have been inserting things into their vagina and uterus to avoid pregnancy--think ivory, wood, and even glass--since we figured out where babies come from. There are now two IUDs on the market in the U.S. Both are over 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, making them the most reliable forms of reversible contraception (and in some studies, they're even better than tying your tubes).

The Paragard is a copper-based IUD that lasts for up to 10 years. It contains no hormones, so there are very few women who can't use it. The Mirena is a progesterone-based IUD that lasts for up to 5 years. This IUD has the added benefit of making your periods lighter and shorter, with less cramping, and some women lose their periods altogether. Both IUDs need to be placed by a gyno, and removed by her as well. While it may be more complicated to start using an IUD as compared to pills (with a higher upfront cost), the long-term effectiveness and improved periods may be worth the planning.

Have any of you tried using an IUD? What did you think?


Kayla said...

I am 20yrs old currently on the pill but seeing as I am not planning on having kids in the next 10 years I was thinking that an IUD would be much more convenient than my daily dosage. Except that I've heard horror stories about possibility of sterilization. How likely is something like that to go wrong and are people who plan on giving birth later in their lives usually dissuaded from getting an IUD? thanks.

Dr. Kate said...

Kayla, I can assure you, the IUD won't make you infertile. Have your doc screen you for chlamydia and gonorrhea before having an IUD placed - because these infections, untreated, CAN make you infertile. But the IUD will just keep you not pregnant until you're ready.

littlecalder said...

since the first comment i tried to leave didn't work....

i've been considering getting either paragard or mirena, but haven't talked to my doc about it yet.
i've noticed in my research online that with mirena, many women seem to complain about the same hormonal side effects that the pill has, although i thought that they were supposed to be far less common with it?
with paragard i noticed complaints about the increase in bleeding or cramping. in your experience, are these both common complaints? or are they in actuality far less common than the internet makes them seem?

Dr. Kate said...

With the Mirena, the hormonal side effects seem fewer overall, both in published studies and with my patients. The blood levels of hormones are definitely lower, and since there's no estrogen in the IUD, the usual estrogen-related side effects (particularly nausea, headaches and breast tenderness) shouldn't be present.

The Paragard, unfortunately, DOES lead to heavier bleeding and cramping for many women. It's usually not enough for them to want the IUD pulled, though, and it's often manageable with anti-inflammatories like naproxen.