What is an intrauterine device (IUD)?
The intrauterine device (IUD) is a birth control device placed into a woman's uterus by a medical professional. It can stay in the uterus for 1 to 10 years. It is usually made of plastic or metal with a string attached. The IUD changes the physical environment of the uterus so that a fertilized egg cannot implant and grow.
The IUD is generally not recommended for women who have not yet had children. There has been some controversy over the use of the IUD because of its association with pelvic infections. If you have ever had heavy menstrual bleeding, an infection in any of your reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes), or a pregnancy in your tube, talk to your health care provider about the risks of using an IUD.
How is it used?
A medical professional inserts the IUD into the uterus through the cervix (opening of the uterus). The IUD is usually inserted during a menstrual period, when the cervix is slightly open and you are least likely to be pregnant. It takes only a few minutes to insert an IUD. You may feel some cramping pain when the IUD is being inserted. You may be given a local anesthetic to help control discomfort during insertion.
You may be able to have an IUD from 1 to 10 years before it needs to be replaced. This depends on the type of IUD you have.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of an IUD are:
- It is 97% effective as a method of preventing pregnancy.
- Love-making does not need to be interrupted by the insertion of a birth control device or spermicide.
- Replacement is required only every 1 to 10 years.
What are the risks?
A number of problems could occur while you are using an IUD, some of which can be severe. These problems are listed below (the first two are the most common):
- increased menstrual bleeding, cramps, and pain
- spotting between menstrual periods
- irritation of your partner's penis
- increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility
- increased risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
- unnoticed accidental expulsion of the IUD, which may result in unexpected pregnancy
- embedding of the IUD in the uterine wall
- perforation of the uterus by the IUD, with possible damage to other organs as well as internal bleeding
- potential problems if pregnancy occurs with an IUD in place.