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IUD (Intrauterine Device)

An Intrauterine Device (IUD) is a small, "T-shaped" device inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. 

As soon as the IUD is removed, it no longer protects against pregnancy.

The IUD is more effective than most other forms of birth control. However, the IUD does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Only 2% of women in the U.S. use an IUD as a form of birth control. Many women are afraid to use an IUD because one type caused side effects and was withdrawn from the market in 1975. Today's IUDs are safer and more effective.

Types of IUDs

There are currently two types of IUDs available in the U.S.:

Both types of IUDs are T-shaped, but they work in different ways.

The hormonal IUD releases a small amount of the hormone progestin into the uterus. This thickens the cervical mucus, which decreases the chance that the sperm will enter the cervix. It may make the sperm less active and make the sperm and the egg less likely to be able to live in the fallopian tube. It also thins the lining of the uterus. This keeps a fertilized egg from attaching and makes menstrual periods lighter.

The copper IUD releases a small amount of copper into the uterus. This can prevent the egg from being fertilized or attaching to the wall of the uterus. The copper also prevents sperm from going through the uterus and into the fallopian tubes and reduces the sperm's ability to fertilize an egg.

Inserting the IUD

A doctor must insert and remove the IUD. The IUD often is inserted during or right after your menstrual period. The doctor puts the IUD in a long, slender, plastic tube. He or she places it into the vagina and guides it through the cervix into the uterus. The IUD is then pushed out of the plastic tube into the uterus. The IUD springs open into place, and the tube is withdrawn.

Insertion of the IUD does not require anesthesia (pain relief), although you may have some discomfort. Taking over-the-counter pain relief medication before the procedure may help. Sometimes a doctor will use local anesthesia to insert the IUD.

Some women may not be able to use an IUD. The size or shape of a woman's uterus may not be compatible with the IUD. Women who have had a recent abnormal Pap test result or other conditions should not use an IUD.

You may be asked to read and sign a consent form before using an IUD. Make sure you understand everything about the IUD to be inserted. If you have questions, ask your doctor.

Once the IUD is inserted, the doctor will show you how to check that it is in place. Each IUD comes with a string or "tail" made of a thin plastic thread. After insertion, the tail is trimmed so that 1–2 inches hang out of the cervix inside your vagina. You will be able to tell the placement of the IUD by the location of this string. The string will not bother you, but your partner may feel it with his penis. This should not interfere with his sexual feeling.

It is important to check the string regularly. To do this, you must insert a finger into your vagina and feel around for the string. You can do this at any time, but doing it right after your menstrual period is easy to remember. If you do not feel the string or if you feel the IUD, call your doctor. The IUD may have slipped out of place. Use another form of birth control until your IUD is checked.

If you can feel the IUD, see your doctor. Do not try to remove it yourself.

You Should Not Use an IUD If You:

IUD Risks

Serious complications from use of an IUD are rare. However, some women do have problems. These problems usually happen during, or soon after, insertion:

Reference: Center of Disease Control and Prevention.