The Intrauterine Device (IUD)
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The Intrauterine Device (IUD)

An Intrauterine Device (IUD) is a convenient, effective, long-lasting, and reversible method of contraception that is inserted into a woman s uterus.

An IUD is a small, T-shaped device that contains either copper or a hormone to avert pregnancy by preventing the fertilization of an egg. Currently, there are three types of IUDs: The Copper IUD (ParaGard); the Progesterone IUD (Progestasert), containing the female hormone progesterone; and the Levonorgestrel Intrauterine System (LNG IUS), containing the potent progestin hormone LNG.

The Copper IUD, which is good for ten years, is a plastic device with copper parts that interferes with sperm and egg migration, fertilization, and implantation. The Progesterone IUD, which is good for one year, is a plastic device that releases daily progesterone into the uterus, disrupting ovulation. The LNG IUS, which is good for five years, has a steroid reservoir containing LNG, a hormone found in many oral contraceptives. The steroid reservoir releases a small daily dose of LNG into the uterine cavity for five years, thickening the cervical mucus and inhibiting sperm motility and function.

IUDs do not protect against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Effectiveness

IUDs are nearly as effective as sterilization. The Progesterone IUD is 98 percent effective, the Copper IUD is 99 percent effective, and the LNG IUS is almost 100 percent effective.

Advantages

A woman does not need to insert and remove the device every time she has sex, because these devices work for prolonged periods of times. IUDs are very effective at preventing pregnancy, but they are also reversible, unlike sterilization. Because IUDs are soft and flexible, women can hardly feel them, and the devices do not interfere with sex or tampon use. Women using the LNG IUS experience a major reduction in both the amount and length of menstrual bleeding after about six months of use. Menstruation returns rapidly after removal of the LNG IUS. Contrary to many rumors, IUD use carries little risk of causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Drawbacks

IUDs do not protect against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The LNG IUS and the Progesterone IUD, both of which contain a hormone, can cause side effects (similar to those from birth control pills): mood changes, acne, headaches, breast tenderness, nausea, and altered menstrual bleeding. The copper IUD sometimes causes increased menstrual flow and cramps.

How can I get an IUD?

Because a doctor must insert an IUD, you must visit your health-care provider or a family-planning clinic to get an IUD.

How much is an IUD?

Prices for IUDs vary, but the combined cost of the device and the charge of the medical visit needed for insertion is usually between $150 and $300.

Information Resources

For additional information, check out these books:

  • Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.
  • Winikoff, B. & Wymelenberg, S., The Whole Truth About Contraception: A Guide to Safe and Effective Choices. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 1997.
  • Hatcher, Robert et al., Contraceptive Technology, Seventeenth Revised Edition, Ardent Media Cooper Station, NY, 1998.

From the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.

 
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