If you’re considering birth control options after giving birth, an intrauterine device or IUD is a great option. IUDs are safe to use while breastfeeding. Plus, you don’t need to remember to take a pill at the same time each day. This is something many busy and tired new moms appreciate. Here’s everything you need to know about IUDs as you consider your options.
What is an IUD?
An IUD is a small device (about the size of a quarter or a bit larger) shaped like a “T” that gets inserted into your uterus in a process that usually takes less than five minutes. You can typically have one put in right after you give birth, or you can have it inserted later at a postpartum appointment.
IUDs come in two varieties—hormonal and copper. A hormonal IUD prevents pregnancy by preventing your ovaries from releasing eggs and by thickening the mucus in your cervical canal so that sperm can’t get through to fertilize an egg. A copper IUD, on the other hand, is wrapped in copper wire that’s toxic to sperm, which prevents sperm from fertilizing the egg.
No matter which variety you choose, IUDs are one of the most effective forms of birth control out there, with an efficacy rate of more than 99%. Put simply, this means you’ll have a less than 1% chance of getting pregnant while using an IUD.
How Long Do IUDs Last?
An IUD isn’t permanent, but it can stay in your body for years without any maintenance required. Some types are effective for up to ten years. If you decide you want to get pregnant again, a healthcare provider can remove the IUD and you’ll be able to get pregnant soon after, often right away.
Most people experience a bit of cramping or pain as the IUD is inserted and even into the days or weeks afterwards. For some people, cramps, spotting, and irregular periods may be present for the first three to six months after insertion. With a copper IUD, you may also experience heavier or longer periods and increased cramping during your period. And with a hormonal IUD, you may notice symptoms similar to those present with other forms of hormonal birth control, like headaches and sore breasts—but often these don’t linger beyond the first few months.
IUDs aren’t recommended if you’re pregnant, have certain types of cancer including cervical and uterine, are experiencing vaginal bleeding, had a pelvic infection recently, or if you have an STD. It’s also important to keep in mind that while IUDs are an effective way of preventing pregnancy, they don’t protect you from STDs.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.