ParaGard® is a copper intrauterine device (IUD) that is used to prevent pregnancy. This method of birth control is nonhormonal and is used for long-term pregnancy prevention.
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.
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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.
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.)
The most common side effects reported with ParaGard® include:
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:
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:
Overall, IUDs are a safe, effective form of birth control. Certain health conditions may increase the risk of IUD complications, including:
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.
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.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/09/2018.
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