Are IUDs a Safe Option for Birth Control?

Known as “set it and don’t sweat it” contraception, IUDs are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy for up to three to 12 years, depending on your chosen type. But is an IUD a safe birth control option for you? Find out here.

The intrauterine device (IUD) is known as “set it and don’t sweat it” contraception because once it’s in place, you don’t have to give pregnancy prevention another thought for a very long time — up to eight years with a hormonal IUD, and up to 12 years with a copper IUD.  

Even better, IUDs are over 99% effective, meaning less than one in 100 women get pregnant each year while using an IUD. Only one other form of contraception, the birth control implant, is as effective. 

Despite their supreme convenience and remarkable success rate, many women wonder if IUDs come with any risks. As seasoned women’s wellness experts who provide a full scope of contraceptive services at New Beginnings OB/GYN, Dr. Christina Parmar and Dr. Rania Ibrahim are here to tell you everything you need to know when you’re considering an IUD. 

Basic facts about IUDs

IUDs are the second most popular form of reversible contraception after birth control pills and the most widely used form of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) in the United States and across the globe: Worldwide, nearly one in four women who use birth control choose IUDs to prevent pregnancy.

LARC birth control methods remain in place and effective for years and don’t affect your ability to get pregnant when you’re ready to have it removed and start a family. 

How IUDs work 

Made of flexible plastic, an IUD is a small, T-shaped implement that’s inserted into your uterus. Its shape keeps it firmly in place, preventing pregnancy by changing how sperm move so they can’t reach and fertilize an egg. 

All IUDs, regardless of type, trigger an immune response that sabotages sperm motility. When an IUD is put in place, your body recognizes it as a foreign invader and triggers a low-grade inflammatory response in your uterus. This inflammatory environment is so toxic to sperm that it stops them from reaching the fallopian tubes, where egg fertilization normally occurs.     

Two IUD types

The two main types of IUDs prevent pregnancy in other ways, too:

Hormonal IUDs

Hormonal IUDs increase their effectiveness by releasing small amounts of progestin (the synthetic version of the hormone progesterone) over time. Progestin promotes thicker cervical mucus to help block or trap sperm and a thinner uterine lining to suppress ovulation partially, or the release of an egg from your ovaries. 

Copper IUDS

With its stem wrapped in a thin copper wire, a copper IUD provides extra protection against pregnancy by releasing copper ions, which are highly toxic to sperm. Essentially, copper ions intensify the inflammatory environment to undermine sperm function.

Are IUDs safe for me?

IUDs are a very safe contraceptive option for most women. However, there are circumstances in which we don’t recommend them, usually because of a condition that would make side effects or complications more likely. You can’t get an IUD if you might be pregnant, and you can’t safely use an IUD if you:

  • Have an active sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • Have a higher-than-normal risk of getting an STI 
  • Have untreated cervical or uterine cancer
  • Have unexplained, abnormal uterine bleeding 
  • Had a pelvic infection following any childbirth
  • Had an abortion within the past three months

You shouldn’t get a hormone-releasing IUD if you have severe liver disease or breast cancer or are at high risk for breast cancer. You shouldn’t receive a copper IUD if you’re allergic to copper, have a bleeding disorder that hampers blood clot formation, or have Wilson’s disease. This genetic disorder causes copper to build up in your organs. 

In rare cases, an atypically small or unusually shaped uterus can make correct IUD placement difficult or impossible.  

Learn more about IUDs

While it’s normal to experience mild pain during IUD insertion as well as general cramping and back aches for a few days after, other common side effects — like having irregular periods or spotting between periods — tend to resolve within three to six months, once your body grows accustomed to the medical device it’s hosting. 

And as we mentioned, using an IUD doesn’t affect your ability to get pregnant in the future; if you decide to have our team remove your IUD because you’re ready to start a family, you can start trying to conceive as soon as you’d like. 

The bottom line on IUD contraception? It’s highly effective at preventing pregnancy, long-acting without additional input, and reversible when you no longer need it. And for most women, IUD birth control is perfectly safe, too.  

Are you looking for the proper birth control method? Our experts can help. Call or click online today to learn more or schedule a visit at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas.