What is an intrauterine device (IUD)?
An IUD is a small device that usually resembles a T and is made of flexible plastic or copper. When placed inside the uterus by a doctor or other healthcare provider in a short medical procedure, an IUD can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years, and likely even up to 12 years.
What is the ParaGard® IUD?
ParaGard® is the only nonhormonal IUD available in the U.S. today.
Unlike hormonal IUDs (such as Mirena®, Skyla® or Kyleena®) that release a small amount of the hormone progestin, the ParaGard® IUD is wrapped in a small piece of copper. Because sperm don’t like copper, they avoid the IUD. This prevents sperm from reaching an egg, which prevents pregnancy.
With hormonal IUDs, your period may come less frequently or stop altogether. Because ParaGard® doesn’t use hormones, women using this IUD continue to get their monthly period.
How effective are copper IUDs?
ParaGard® is more than 99% effective. That means that out of 1,000 women, five women may get pregnant. Compare that to the effectiveness of other common birth control options:
One reason IUDs work so well: There’s less room for error. After you have an IUD placed, it will continue working without any further action from you.
ParaGard® in particular can be a good option for emergency contraception when a woman wants pregnancy protection in the future. Women who get a copper IUD within five days of having unprotected sex have a less than 0.1% chance of becoming pregnant. (However, IUDs do not protect from sexually transmitted disease.)
What are common ParaGard® side effects?
The most common side effects reported with ParaGard® include:
- A heavier or longer period
- A more painful period
- Spotting between periods or abnormal uterine bleeding
If you experience these side effects of ParaGard®, the symptoms might lessen or go away after a few months.
In rare instances, IUDs have been associated with potentially more severe side effects such as:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the uterus or other reproductive organs that requires medical attention. It is important to know that the risk of PID may be increased for only up to four weeks after the procedure. After one month, women using an IUD are at no higher risk of infection as compared to women who do not use an IUD. Using a condom is an important way to help minimize infection risk.
- Placement issues, such as problems that happen when placing or removing the IUD device.
What are the benefits of IUD birth control?
Unlike birth control pills (which must be taken regularly to ensure effectiveness), an IUD provides continuous pregnancy protection until it’s removed.
In general, IUD contraception is:
- Safe: IUDs are considered safe for the vast majority of women, whether or not you’ve had a baby previously. IUDs are a great option for women who are advised against taking the pill due to certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure.
- Long term: After placement, IUDs work for three to 10 years, depending on the type and brand of IUD you use.
- Reversible: An IUD can be easily removed, should your circumstances or needs change. Your pregnancy protection ends right after IUD removal.
- Effective: IUDs are more than 99% effective. This makes them one of the most effective forms of birth control available today.
What are the risks of IUD birth control?
Overall, IUDs are a safe, effective form of birth control. Certain health conditions may increase the risk of IUD complications, including:
- Pelvic or other infections
- Certain cancers
- Uterine fibroids or tumors
Getting pregnant with an IUD is rare, but it can happen. You should call your doctor if you believe you may be pregnant at any time while you have an IUD.
Is a copper IUD the right birth control for me?
IUDs are appropriate for most women, especially those looking for the most effective methods of birth control. If you know planning for a baby isn’t in your near future, an IUD may make sense for you.
ParaGard® may especially appeal to women who are looking for a hormone-free birth control option. Because of the potential for heavier or more painful periods, women whose periods are heavy or crampy may want to be extra cautious.
While all IUDs are effective at preventing pregnancy, none protect you against sexually transmitted diseases or HIV/AIDS. Discussing your specific needs and circumstances with a trusted healthcare provider can help you find the best birth control option for you.