The Intra-uterine Device (IUD) is a long-acting reversible method of contraception. It is a small T-shaped device, with a string at the base of the T, inserted into the uterine cavity. There are two types of IUDs, copper and progesterone-releasing. A copper IUD can remain in place for up to ten years. In the progesterone-releasing IUD there is a reservoir of progesterone that is slowly released for up to five years; once exhausted it must be replaced.
An IUD prevents fertilization by triggering an inflammatory response in the endometrium. In plain english, this means that an IUD hampers the ability of Sperm to pass through the uterine cavity and thus disrupts the reproductive process. Progestin-releasing IUDs also thicken the cervical mucus and changes the endometrial lining, making the uterus unfavorable for implantation.
The IUD is approximately 99% effective.
A qualified medical practitioner will properly insert the IUD. Under no circumstances should a woman attempt this on herself or have an unqualified person attempt the insertion on her.
- Very effective over the long-term because you don't have to remember to take or use contraception each time.
- It doesn't interrupt sex like some other methods.
- Periods usually become much lighter and shorter, and sometimes less painful. They may stop completely after the first year of use. Women who have a heavy flow or dysmenorrhea may tolerate or even benefit from the progesterone-releasing IUD, which can reduce menstrual bleeding.
- Fertility will return to normal once the IUD is removed.
- Can be used if you are breastfeeding.
- It is useful if you cannot use estrogens (hormones) like those found in The Pill.
- Periods may change in a way that is not acceptable, such as irregular bleeding or spotting.
- IUDs can increase menstrual flow and cramping, which may be particularly severe in the first few months after insertion.
- A small minority of women expel the IUD during the first year of use.
- There is no protection from STDs/STIs, so it is important to practice Safe Sex!