Alright, ladies, time to talk birth control. Thanks to modern medicine, there are a ton of options out there for us so we can get it on without making a baby every time. Thank goodness. We have so many options, in fact, that a lot of us don’t look at all of them before settling on one that we’ll then use forever (or until menopause). One method that doesn’t get enough attention is the IUD (intrauterine device). Its a little T-shaped stick that a doctor inserts into the uterus and it’s more than 99 percent effective (we like those odds). Allow us to educate you on these little wonder sticks so you can consider them as a viable option for yourself.
So what’s the deal?
There are two types of IUDs, both made of flexible plastic. The copper (or non-hormonal) type is coated in, you guessed it, copper and is effective immediately. It can also be used as emergency contraception within five days of unprotected sex and is effective for up to ten years.
The hormonal IUD contains the hormone, progestin hormone, levonorgestrel and takes one week to take effect. No emergency contraceptive use here, unfortunately. Depending on the brand, this one is effective for three to five years.
How do they put that thing in?
First of all, no, it won’t feel like you have an oddly-shaped piece of plastic in your uterus for ten years. Like a tampon, if it’s in the right place, you won’t feel it at all. The IUD comes in a little plastic tube that your doctor will insert just like a pap smear. Then they’ll release the ‘T’ section and push it all the way up to the top of the uterus. The applicator gets pulled out and the IUD is left inside with two strings poking out. Those get cut off at the cervix, and you’re all good to go. Check out the video above for a demonstration.
Most women feel slight pain or get cramps during insertion, but there are a lot who just feel mild discomfort.
How do they even work?
A flimsy bit of plastic that works as birth control seems fake, so what’s the deal? The copper IUD triggers the production of a sperm-killing fluid in the uterus and fallopian tubes, which prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg (because they’re all dead). The hormonal IUDs release the synthetic hormone, levonorgestrel, that prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm in their tracks.
That sounds way too good. What are the side effects?
Well, sure, nothing is perfect. You’re changing a natural process in your body, of course there are going to be some side effects. With the copper IUD, you may experience more severe cramping or pain and abnormal menstrual bleeding. Hormonal IUDs tend to mean fewer cramps and lighter periods. Some women even lose their period altogether.
IUDs are not permanent, so you can still get pregnant after you remove them, and the removal is pretty easy. Your doctor will just grab those cervix strings we talked about earlier, you’ll feel a slight twinge of pain, and then it’s out.
Hopefully, we’ve given you some helpful information in your pursuit of birth control. Always remember though: every body is different so there are some things that will work better than others. Do your research, take your time and keep your doctor in the loop.