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IntraUterine Device Insertion

What is an intrauterine device (IUD)?

The intrauterine device (IUD) is a birth control device placed into a woman's uterus by Dr. Hardy or the Nurse Practitioner. It is usually made of plastic or metal with a string attached. There are 2 types of IUDs. The devices that contain copper can stay in the uterus for up to 10 years (Paragaurd). IUDs that contain the female hormone progesterone can stay in place up to 5 years (Mirena).

The IUD prevents pregnancy by changing the physical environment of the reproductive tract. These changes appear to prevent the egg from being fertilized or implanting and growing in the uterus.

How is it used?

Dr. Hardy or the Nurse Practitioner will insert the IUD into the uterus through the vagina and cervix (opening of the uterus). It takes only a few minutes to insert an IUD. You may feel some cramping pain when the IUD is being inserted. You may like to take some Ibuprofen about 30 minutes before your appointment to help with the cramping.

You will have a pelvic exam 2 weeks after insertion to make sure you are not having any pain or problems with the IUD. During the first few months after insertion of an IUD, check often for the attached string to be sure that the IUD is still in the uterus. You should also check for the string after every menstrual period. You can do this by putting a finger inside the vagina and feeling for the string near the cervix. (Be careful no to pull on the string.) As long as you can feel the string, the IUD is in position and it is unlikely that you will become pregnant. If you feel the hard plastic of the IUD, it is no longer in the correct place and you will have to see your health care provider to fix or remove it.

The IUD could come out accidentally in the first few months, possibly without being noticed. Always check the IUD before you have intercourse. You might want to use a backup method of birth control during the first few months, just to be safe.

You may be able to have an IUD from 5 to 10 years before it needs to be replaced. Usually progesterone IUDs (Mirena) are replaced after 5 years. Copper IUDs (Paragaurd) must be replaced after 10 years.

You should not use an IUD if:

  • You have cancer in the uterus or cervix.
  • You have unexplained vaginal bleeding.
  • You may be pregnant.
  • You have had pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • You have a severe infection of the cervix (cervicitis).
  • You have fibroids or other problems with the structure of the uterus that make it hard to insert the IUD.
  • You should not use a copper IUD if you are allergic to copper or metals.

If you or your partner are having more than 1 sexual partner, then your risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease is higher. You should tell your health care provider when you are discussing types of birth control.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of an IUD are:

  • It is 98 to 99% effective as a method of preventing pregnancy.
  • Lovemaking does not need to be interrupted by the insertion of a birth control device or spermicide.
  • Replacement is required just every 5 to 10 years, depending on the type.
  • The progesterone-containing IUD decreases the amount of bleeding and cramps that you have during your periods. (Sometimes you may skip menstrual periods with this type of IUD.)
  • Women do not have a harder time getting pregnant after removal of an IUD than they do after the use of other forms of birth control.

What are the risks?

A number of problems could occur while you are using an IUD, some of which can be severe. These problems are listed below (the first two are the most common):

  • increased menstrual bleeding and cramps, mostly during the first few months of use
  • spotting between menstrual periods
  • irritation of your partner's penis
  • increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility
  • unnoticed loss of the IUD from the uterus, which may result in unexpected pregnancy
  • embedding of the IUD in the uterine wall
  • damage to the uterus by the IUD, with possible damage to other organs as well as internal bleeding
  • potential problems if pregnancy occurs with an IUD in place, including ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.

If you become pregnant with an IUD in place, it should be removed right away. It might increase your risk of miscarriage (loss of the baby), as well as the risk of infection in the uterus and preterm birth of the baby.

Do not receive diathermy (deep heat) treatments if you have a copper IUD. Diathermy treatment increases the risk of injury to the tissues of the uterus.

IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS. Use latex or polyurethane condoms for protection against these infections.

There has been no evidence of birth defects resulting from the use of an IUD.

When should I call the office?

Call if you:

  • Cannot find the IUD string or you feel the hard plastic of the IUD.
  • Have vaginal discharge with a bad odor.
  • Have severe, unexpected pain in your lower abdomen, especially if it happens when you have intercourse.
  • Have heavy bleeding for more than 1 menstrual period.
  • Have a fever with no apparent cause.
  • Think you might be pregnant with the IUD still inside the uterus.
  • Want to have the IUD removed.