6 Things Everyone Should Know About IUDs

Never heard of the IUD until Jessica Simpson announced to Ellen (and the world) that she has one? You’re not alone: Sixty-eight percent of people say they know little or nothing about the IUD, and 27% don’t know where it’s inserted. Although IUDs have become even more popular in the past few months, they can still be somewhat of a mystery — so it’s worth going over the basics and clarifying a few misconceptions.

Once you’re familiar with IUDs, make sure you learn about all your other options (like the Pill, the Depo shot, the ring, the implant — and so many more) and find the method that works best for you.

IUDs 101

An IUD (intrauterine device) is a small T-shaped device that is inserted in the uterus and can prevent pregnancy for three to 12 years. It changes the way that sperm move and prevents them from reaching and fertilizing eggs. IUDs are one of the most effective methods of birth control — they’re up to 99% effective.

You have a lot of choices.

There are two types of IUDs: hormonal and non-hormonal. Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena are all hormonal versions that thicken cervical mucus and prevent sperm from reaching the uterus. For those who prefer a non-hormonal birth control method, there’s also ParaGard, a copper IUD that works by functioning as a sort of spermicide inside your body (yes, really) and lasts up to 12 years. That means that you can find the right IUD for your life and your body — because not every method works for everyone.

You might be able to say goodbye to your period.

If you choose a hormonal IUD, your period may change, decrease, or go away completely. In fact, the Mirena is FDA-approved to treat heavy periods in addition to being FDA-approved for intrauterine contraception. It takes between three and six months (sometimes more) for your body to adjust to the IUD — your uterus isn’t used to having something in there, especially if you’ve never had kids — but once it does, you may not have to worry about bleeding again until you have it taken out. If you’d prefer to get a period, you can opt for the copper IUD or another contraceptive method.

An IUD won’t affect your fertility once it’s taken out.

Want to have a baby? Just have your doctor take it out! Although the IUD lasts for years, if you want to get pregnant sooner, you can have it taken it out at any time and start trying immediately. Like, in-the-car-on-the-way-home-from-the-doctor’s-office immediately. That's not to say you're guaranteed to get pregnant immediately, just that IUDs do not negatively affect your fertility or ability to get pregnant after they’re removed — they just give you the ability to decide when to start trying.

You can get an IUD put in right after having a baby.

Just had a baby? Congratulations! Now, get back on birth control (if you want). Your doctor can place an IUD right after delivery so that you can worry about the human you just birthed instead of scheduling another doctor’s appointment or going to the pharmacy for oral contraception refills. This is totally safe (and convenient). The only risk is that the chance of expulsion might be a little higher than if you wait a few weeks, but that risk is still low (2-10%).

IUDs can function as emergency contraception.

The copper IUD does double duty and can also work as emergency contraception. Surprise: It’s actually the most effective form of emergency contraception. The morning-after pill (a.k.a. traditional hormonal emergency contraception) may not work for people with a BMI of 25 or higher and is 89% effective, but the copper IUD is 99-100% effective. Seriously. It can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex and have the same effect on day five as it does on day one. Plus, you can keep it in and not have to run back to CVS for EC for up to 12 years. Win-win! Not all doctors and nurses know how to insert IUDs, so they may prescribe an EC pill by default. If you’re interested, make sure you call the clinic beforehand and ask if they offer IUDs.

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