Let’s Discuss: IUDs
An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a small T-shaped structure that is inserted into the uterus by a health professional to prevent pregnancy. There are two different IUD types – copper and hormonal – and while they may look pretty similar, they both work in different ways. By releasing copper ions that interfere with sperm movement and viability, copper IUDs stop sperm from reaching the egg. By contrast, hormonal IUDs work by slowly releasing a progestogen hormone that thins the lining of the uterus and thickens cervical mucus (a hostile environment for both sperm migration and embryo implantation). In some women, hormonal IUDs even prevent ovulation.
IUDs have been the victims of bad press over the years, but with improvements in the technology the new generation of IUDs are some of the best contraceptives around. Ladies, here are five reasons why you should think about getting an IUD:
1. IUDs are highly effective
IUDs are over 99% effective, which makes them even better at stopping pregnancy than permanently having your tubes tied. Copper IUDs are also the most effective method of emergency contraception, and can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.
2. IUDs last for years
Once inserted into the uterus, copper IUDs can work for 5 or 10 years depending on the type selected. Mirena®, the most well-known hormonal IUD, can be used for up to 5 years and, in the countries where it’s available, the smaller Jaydess® can be used for up to 3 years.
Having long lasting contraception gives you freedom: you don’t have to remember to take a pill every day, and you don’t have to find a condom in the heat of the moment – although you probably still should to prevent STIs. Not having to remember to use a contraceptive reduces the potential for human error, which is one of the reasons that IUDs are so effective (see #1).
3. Hate periods? Hormonal IUDs can help you there!
As stated earlier, one of the ways by which hormonal IUDs stop pregnancy is by making the lining of the uterus very thin. A thin endometrium means far less blood and fewer bleeding days. Indeed, most women with hormonal IUDs experience little or no bleeding (hooray)!
For women who don’t mind having a period, copper IUDs are a very good option. Being hormone free, the frequency of your period generally doesn’t change, although there’s a possibility they can become heavier and more painful.
4. IUDs are cost effective
IUDs last for years and depending on the type, are relatively cheap in the long run – in fact much cheaper than forking out for the pill every few months. Plus, with the added bonus of reducing periods, having a hormonal IUD means less money spent on pads and tampons.
5. Can’t have oestrogen? An IUD has you covered.
There are many women who can’t use oestrogen-based contraception methods, which rules out the combined pill and the contraceptive ring. Reasons to avoid oestrogen include having migraines with aura, multiple risk factors for heart disease and current or past blood clots. Hormonal IUDs only contain a progestogen, and copper IUDs contain no hormones at all, making them excellent options for those oestrogen-averse ladies.
Additionally, for those who can’t use any hormones at all, such as those with breast cancer or a history of the disease, the hormone-free copper IUDs provide a perfect solution.
Now, I’m totally going to cheat and add in points six and seven, because why not. IUDs do not interfere with sex and are completely reversible, once removed your fertility quickly reverts back to its normal state.
Like many things in life, IUDs are not all sunshine and rainbows. Disadvantages include requiring a minor procedure for insertion – which can be really uncomfortable – there is also a small risk of complications that include uterine perforation, infection and fainting. IUDs do not prevent STIs, and in a small proportion of women the uterus can expel the device. There are also some contraindications, including current pelvic infections, a distorted uterine cavity and breast cancer (for the hormonal IUDs only).
Despite these, the benefits absolutely outweigh the negatives for most women. IUDs are a first-rate contraceptive option for women of all ages and circumstances.
If you are interested in learning more about IUDs it’s worth visiting your GP or sexual health clinic. For more information, watch this video.
Have you ever had an IUD? Share your experiences in the comments below.