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Birth Control Health Center

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Birth Control and the IUD (Intrauterine Device)

If you’re looking into your options for birth control, one method you may want to think about is the IUD. They’re not for everyone, but today’s IUDs are considered both effective and safe for most women. And they’re also long-lasting.

What Is an IUD?

"IUD" stands for "intrauterine device." Shaped like a "T" and a bit bigger than a quarter, an IUD fits inside your uterus. It prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs.

Four types are available in the United States.

Three -- Liletta, Mirena, and Skyla -- release small amounts of the hormone progestin (levonorgestrel) into your body. It’s the same hormone used in many birth control pills. These types of IUDs tend to make your period lighter and may be a good option if you have heavy periods.

The fourth is ParaGard, also called the copper T IUD. It’s hormone-free. The copper triggers your immune system to prevent pregnancy. It can cause your periods to be heavier, especially at first. But ParaGard lasts longer than hormonal IUDs.

How effective are IUDs?

If you use an IUD correctly, your chance of getting pregnant is less than 1%.

What are the benefits of IUDs?

  • They last a long time.
  • They're mostly hassle-free. Once you have one inserted, you don't have to think about it, and neither does your partner.
  • It’s one cost, upfront.
  • They’re safe to use if you're breastfeeding.

Who can use them?

Most healthy women can use an IUD. They’re especially suited to women with one partner and at low risk of contracting an STD. IUDs don't protect against STDs. You shouldn’t use one if:

You can’t use the copper IUD if you have an allergy to copper or have Wilson's disease, which causes your body hold too much copper.

Hormonal IUDs are considered safe unless you have liver disease, breast cancer, or are at a high risk for breast cancer.

In rare cases, the size or shape of your uterus may make it tough to place an IUD.

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