An IUD (intrauterine device) is one of the best long-term birth control options out there for women. They’re highly effective at preventing pregnancy (>99%). They are safe to use for many years, which saves you money too. Since you don’t have to worry about taking a daily pill or having a form of contraception on hand (condoms, spermicide, etc.), they’re convenient and reduce the chance for human error. IUDs can also be removed at any time, if you should decide you want to become pregnant or stop using it.
If you’re already sold on the advantages of IUDs, your next step will be to determine which type of IUD is right for you: hormonal or nonhormonal. To help you decide, let’s take a look at how they compare.
How They Work:
Once placed in the uterus, hormonal IUDs will begin to release small amounts of the hormone progestin (synthetic progesterone). This hormone thickens your cervical mucus to prevent sperm from being able to reach any eggs. Progestin also thins your endometrial (uterine) lining to prevent egg implantation, just in case any rogue sperm makes it through.
Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla are the current FDA-approved hormonal IUD brands in the U.S. Each brand releases a different level of progestin, which means each one has a different impact on your period.
Hormonal IUDs are highly effective at preventing pregnancy long-term (>99%). They will also make your period lighter or, for many women, stop your period altogether, due to the thinning of the uterine lining (meaning there’s less to shed). This can be especially helpful if you have bad period cramps or heavy flow. Also, because hormonal IUDs don’t use estrogen, they’re safe for individuals who can’t take the birth control pill, such as women with migraines or higher risk of blood clots.
Any side effects from hormonal IUDs will usually subside after the first few months, once your body has adjusted. But for a couple of months after insertion, you may experience:
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Irregular “breakthrough” bleeding
- Cramping & pelvic pain
- Breast soreness/tenderness
The length of time a hormonal IUD is safe and effective varies by brand, but they all fall within the 3-5-year range.
Nonhormonal (Copper) IUDs
How They Work:
Instead of using hormones, nonhormonal IUDs use copper to prevent pregnancy. The plastic IUD is wrapped in copper wire and inserted, which triggers an inflammatory immune response from your body that makes your uterus inhospitable for sperm. It also stops the development and release of any healthy eggs. ParaGard is the only copper IUD brand currently FDA-approved in the U.S.
Like hormonal IUDs, nonhormonal IUDs are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. They also have the advantage of being effective right after insertion. In fact, copper IUDs are sometimes used as emergency contraception. Individuals who are unable to take hormones, or who don’t like the side effects of hormonal birth control, can safely use a copper IUD as a long-term birth control option.
Nonhormonal IUDs may also produce side effects that usually subside after a few months. After copper IUD insertion, you may experience:
- Heavier periods (more bleeding, longer duration)
- Pain during sex
- Spotting (breakthrough bleeding)
- Vaginal discharge
- Copper allergy
Copper IUDs are safe and effective for up to 10 years, although some research supports their use for 12 years.
The answer as to whether a hormonal or nonhormonal IUD is right for you will ultimately depend on your personal preferences, current period patterns, and any underlying health conditions that may make one or the other a safer option. Before making your decision, it’s important that you discuss your options with an experienced healthcare provider. That’s where South Avenue Women’s Services can help.
Our women’s health professionals can help you assess your birth control choices to determine which one is right for you and your needs. At our Rochester practice, we offer a variety of birth control procedures and prescriptions, including IUDs, birth control pills, shots, patches, and rings, as well as condoms. We’ll be happy to answer any of your questions, help you decide, and get you set with your preferred option.
Contact us today to learn more about the birth control and other women’s health services we offer!