Should You Consider an IUD for Your Birth Control?

Jun 01, 2023
Should You Consider an IUD for Your Birth Control?
Known as “set it and don’t sweat it” contraception, IUDs are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy for up to 12 years, depending on the type you choose. But is an IUD the right form of birth control for you? Learn more here.

When it comes to choosing birth control, it can be difficult to make sense of your many options. Of the various types that are available, which form of contraception is the one that best matches your lifestyle, health needs, and future family planning desires?

If you like the idea of being able to rely on a long-acting contraceptive that’s highly effective, fully reversible, and requires no additional effort from you once it’s in place, an intrauterine device (IUD) may be the perfect solution. 

At Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC, in Glendale, Arizona, our seasoned team of women’s health experts offers a full scope of family planning and contraceptive counseling services. This month, we cover the benefits of IUD birth control — also known as “set it and don’t sweat it” contraception. 

Basic facts about IUD birth control

An IUD is a small, T-shaped contraceptive implement that’s made of flexible plastic. Your provider inserts it into your uterus, where it prevents pregnancy by changing the way sperm move so they can’t reach and fertilize an egg. Its shape helps it stay firmly in place.

IUDs are the second most popular form of reversible birth control after the pill; they rank as the most popular type of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) in the United States and across the globe. Worldwide, about one in four women (23%) who rely on birth control choose IUDs to prevent pregnancy. 

LARC devices, which include the IUD and the birth control implant, are inserted in the body, where they stay in place and are effective for years at a time. LARC methods don’t affect your ability to get pregnant when you’re ready to have yours removed so you can start or add to your family. 

How does an IUD prevent pregnancy?

IUDs prevent pregnancy in two ways. First, the presence of an IUD in your uterus triggers an inflammatory immune response in your body that impairs sperm motility. 

Specifically, your body recognizes the IUD as a foreign object and responds with low-grade inflammation, creating an environment that’s so toxic to sperm that they can no longer reach your fallopian tubes, where egg fertilization takes place. 

Two types of IUDs

IUDs prevent pregnancy in other ways, too, depending on their type:

Hormone-releasing IUDs

Hormonal IUDs release low, controlled levels of progestin (synthetic progesterone) to increase their effectiveness at preventing pregnancy. Progestin fosters thicker cervical mucus to block or trap sperm and a thinner uterine lining to partially suppress ovulation. Hormonal IUDs don’t release estrogen. 

Copper-ion-releasing IUDs

The stem of this IUD type is wrapped in a thin copper wire that steadily releases copper ions. Copper ions are highly toxic to sperm, effectively intensifying the inflammatory environment set by the IUD to help maximally sabotage sperm function.

Pros and cons of IUD contraception

To determine whether IUD birth control is right for you, it helps to gain a better understanding of the method’s main benefits and potential drawbacks:

Benefits of IUD contraception

IUD birth control offers several advantages, including:

  • Foolproof contraception that’s 99% effective 
  • Works for 3-12 years, depending on the type
  • Can be removed by your health care provider at any time 
  • Requires no upkeep until it’s time to replace it or remove it
  • Offers contraception privacy; no one can tell you have an IUD
  • Hormonal IUD may ease menstrual cramps and makes periods lighter 
  • Doesn’t affect your fertility; pregnancy is possible shortly after IUD removal

IUDs are safe for women who can’t use estrogen-containing birth control methods as well as for breastfeeding mothers because they don’t affect your milk supply or your nursing baby. 

Potential drawbacks of IUD use

IUDs are safe and effective for most women, but as with any medication or implant device, they have potential drawbacks. Specifically, there are circumstances in which we don’t recommend IUD birth control, usually because of a condition that would make side effects or complications more likely. 

An IUD may not be a viable option if you:

  • Have an active sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Have a higher-than-average risk of contracting an STD 
  • Developed a pelvic infection following childbirth
  • Are living with untreated cervical or uterine cancer
  • Have been experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding 
  • Had any kind of abortion within the past three months

Our team may also recommend a different form of birth control if you have a history of breast cancer, blood clots, or liver problems, or if you’re allergic to any of the materials in an IUD. 

Get to know your birth control options

The bottom line on IUD birth control? It’s highly effective at preventing pregnancy, long acting without additional effort on your part, and completely reversible when you decide you no longer need it. And for most women, an IUD is perfectly safe. 

Are you looking for the right birth control method? We can help. To learn more about IUDs and all of your contraception options, schedule a visit at Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC, today.