An intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped piece of plastic about the size of a quarter placed inside the uterus by a doctor to prevent pregnancy, according to KidsHealth.org.
Two types of IUDs are available: copper and hormonal.
The copper IUD has copper wire around the T-shaped stem. It is effective for at least 10 years. The hormonal IUD releases levonorgestrel, which is a form of the hormone progestin, said WebMD. It is effective for at least five years.
Cornell University’s Gannett Health Services stated that IUDs prevent pregnancy by changing the physical environment of the reproductive tract.
The hormonal IUD thickens the cervical mucus, thins the uterine lining, and in some cases stops ovulation altogether, wrote KidsHealth.org. This prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg.
WebMD wrote that copper is toxic to sperm. It makes the uterus and fallopian tubes produce fluid that kills sperm.
IUDs are one of the most effective forms of birth control. Each year, less than 1 out of 100 women get pregnant when using either IUD, said Planned Parenthood.
It’s important to note that IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Women shouldn’t use an IUD if they’re pregnant, have abnormal bleeding, or have cervical or uterine cancer, wrote FamilyDoctor.com. They should not use an IUD if they’ve had a pelvic infection following childbirth or an abortion in the past three months, have or may have a sexually transmitted infection, or have pelvic tuberculosis, added Planned Parenthood.
Women shouldn’t use the hormonal IUD if they have severe liver disease or have, or may have, breast cancer. And don’t use the copper IUD if you are allergic to copper, said FamilyDoctor.com.
Advantages of IUDs include ease of use, lower risk of ectopic pregnancy, and no interruption of foreplay or intercourse, wrote WebMD. And fertility returns immediately upon IUD removal, said Gannett.
The hormonal IUD may also reduce heavy menstrual bleeding by an average of 90 percent after the first few months, reduce menstrual bleeding and cramps and, in many women, may eventually cause menstrual periods to cease, said WebMD.