The IUD is a little, t-shaped piece of plastic that gets put in your uterus to mess with the way sperm can move and prevent them from fertilizing an egg. Sounds odd, but it works like a charm. IUDs offer years of protection--between three and twelve, depending on the type you get. And if you want to get pregnant, you can have the IUD removed at any time. In the U.S. there are four IUDs: Mirena and ParaGard, which are already widely available, and newer options Skyla and Liletta.
Invisible and easy. You can choose hormonal (Mirena, Skyla, and Liletta) or non-hormonal (ParaGard).
- Effectiveness - It's one of the most effective methods. Woohoo!
- Side effects - Increased blood flow and cramping can happen with the ParaGard IUD.
- Effort - Inserted once and lasts for years.
- How to get it - Through your provider. Must be inserted by a professional.
- Cost - Could range from $0-$850. Read more about the costs.
- STI Risk - Can't prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, unfortunately :( Pair it with a male or female condom to stay safe!
Mirena - This plastic IUD releases a small amount of the synthetic hormone progestin to help your body keep sperm from reaching your cervix. It lasts up to 6 years and may give you lighter periods.
ParaGard - This IUD is 100% hormone-free and doesn't alter your periods. It's made of plastic and a small amount of natural, safe copper. It can stay inside you up to 12 years.
Skyla - This plastic IUD is the smallest one available and has been FDA-approved for women who have not had a child. It releases a small amount of the synthetic hormone progestin to help keep sperm from reaching your cervix. It works for up to 3 years.
- Get it and forget it - If you're a busy person who doesn't want to worry about remembering birth control, the IUD just may be for you. Once it's in, you're good to go for years.
- Hands free - No packages or prescriptions to pick up at the pharmacy, so there's nothing that could get lost or forgotten.
- Total privacy - No one can tell when you have an IUD. (Some partners say they can feel the string, but no one else will know it's there.) There's no tell-tale packaging, and nothing you need to do just before you have sex.
- Safe and sound - Most experts agree, if you're a healthy woman, you're probably a good candidate for the IUD. That's true even if you're young, haven't ever been pregnant, or haven't had kids yet.
- The pregnancy question - You should return to fertility (fancy way of saying you should go back to being able to get pregnant) very quickly after you have the IUD removed. Which is great if you want to have a baby. But if you're not ready to get pregnant as soon as you have an IUD taken out, be sure to protect yourself with an alternate method.
How to get it
If you want to get an IUD, the first thing you'll need to do is talk with your healthcare provider. She or he will ask you a bunch of questions about your medical hsitory and lifestyle, then give you an exam to make sure the IUD is right for you.
You can get the IUD inserted any time of the month. Some providers like to insert it during your period, but any time is fine as long as you can be sure you're not pregnant. It may be the most comfortable to get it done during the middle of your period (that's when your cervix--the opening to your uterus--is open the most).
It's pretty common to feel some cramps when you get an IUD inserted, but they'll go away with rest or pain medication. Some women might feel dizzy, too. Once the IUD is in, you'll notice a little string that hangs down into your vagina. That's there so the IUD can be removed later. (The strings don't hang out of the vagina like a tampon, though).
Learn More about the IUD.