Have you ever been curious about how insertable contraceptive devices work? Well, if your answer is yes then you’ve come to the right place.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) or intrauterine contraceptives (IUCs) are one of the most effective and reliable ways of contraception. They are 99% effective and great long-term solution to prevent pregnancy.
Using an IUD for birth control is a long-term method of contraception and can be used for up to 5- 7 years. And once you get them inserted you can essentially forget about it until the device expires or you decide to conceive.
Unlike birth control pills, you don't have to keep a reminder to use an IUD every day, and they are not prone to accidents like torn condoms.
This blog will explore everything about IUDs, including the different types, how they work, and the overall effect on your health. We’ll also explore the difference between hormonal IUDs vs copper IUDs, but let’s first get started by understanding exactly what an IUD is.
what is an iud?
An IUD device is a tiny, T-shaped device that is inserted inside the uterus. It is an effective, reliable, and long-term form of birth control.
It is inserted inside the uterus by a healthcare professional through a medical procedure. It stays in one place (inside the uterus) and depending on the type of IUD it can be used for 5–7 years.
It is a reversible form of contraception, which means your fertility is back as soon as you remove the IUD.
how many types of iuds are there?
There are two types of IUDs, each with their unique characteristics:
1) Hormonal IUDs
These IUDs release a synthetic form of progesterone, called levonorgestrel, in the uterus. They are an effective form of contraception and also provide relief for various other menstrual health related disorders.
A hormonal IUD releases small quantities of the hormone very slowly over a long period of time.
The hormone in the IUD functions by:
Thickening the cervical mucus, thus preventing the sperm from reaching the egg
Thinning the uterine lining, therefore preventing implantation of the sperm into your uterus.
There are many hormonal IUD manufacturers including the Mirena, Skyla, Kyleena, and Liletta. It is important to note that all brands may vary in terms of their hormonal composition and the duration of effectiveness.
So we recommend you check with your doctor to understand your needs and which hormonal IUD will suit you best.
2) Non-Hormonal IUDs or Copper T’s
As the name suggests, this form of IUD does not release any synthetic hormone in your uterus. Non-Hormonal IUDs are commonly known as Copper-T’s and work by releasing a small amount of copper.
Copper has spermicidal properties, which creates a non-conducive environment for the sperm, eventually preventing fertilisation.
The most commonly used Copper-T brand is Paragard and can be used for up to 10 years.
We always recommend that it is best to educate yourself about the range of IUDs and discuss them with your health care consultant, as they can detail all the pros and cons so that you can make an informed choice for your body.
who should use an iud?
In general, IUDs are suitable for everyone to be used as an effective form of contraception.
The hormonal IUD can also be used to alleviate painful periods and manage menstrual changes caused by conditions such as endometriosis and PCOD.
You can make an informed decision after speaking with your doctor. Based on your medical history and lifestyle, a medical professional will be able to guide you with what works best for your body.
how is an iud inserted?
Thinking about having an IUD inserted can be scary. So let's walk through exactly how it gets inserted.
Step 1: First the doctor will gently use a speculum (a clamp-like device) to hold your vagina open
Step 2: Then an antiseptic solution will be used to gently clean your vagina and cervix
Step 3: Once your vagina has been prepared, the IUD will be inserted through the opening of your cervix into the uterus. The insertion procedure can cause a bit of cramping while it’s being done.
how do iuds affect menstrual flow?
IUDs can change your menstrual cycle and have an effect on your period flow, and for some people IUDs stop periods completely.
The effects might vary from person to person depending on how your body responds to them.
If you’re wondering, do hormonal IUDs affect your period differently to copper IUDs? The answer is yes.
So let's understand how the two different types of IUDs can affect your period.
how does the hormonal iud affect your period?
During the menstruation phase of your menstrual cycle, your body releases its endometrium lining that has been built up over the month and exits from your vagina.
In the case of hormonal IUDs, the release of levonorgestrel thins the growth of this lining. So a hormonal IUD can make your period lighter or lead to no menstrual flow. So if you’re someone that experiences very heavy and painful periods, you can manage heavy periods with a hormonal IUD to make periods lighter.
So with hormonal IUDs, you might notice changes to your period such as :
Lighter or no periods: This is one of the most common effects that people face while using a hormonal IUD.
Shorter periods: It is likely for a hormonal IUD to change the duration of your period. So you might have a period that only last 2-3 days once you’ve started using a hormonal IUD.
Spotting or irregular bleeding: You might see some irregular bleeding or spotting for the first few months of inserting an IUD. It is completely normal for IUDs to make periods irregular as it takes some time for the IUDs impact on periods to settle.
how does a copper-t affect your period?
As a Copper-T does not release hormones in your body, it doesn't have an effect on your menstrual cycle.
However, you may experience heavier bleeding and longer periods with a Copper-T.
This is because when the copper works as a spermicide, it can lead to a slight inflammatory response in the uterus. And the inflammation inside your uterus can cause heavier or more prolonged bleeding for some people.
Some of the other potential side effects that are associated with Copper-T’s are:
Spotting or irregular bleeding in between periods
Cramps or backache
how long can you keep an iud in for?
The duration for which you can keep your IUD in depends on the type of IUD you are using.
Hormonal IUDs such as Mirena, Kyleena, Skyla and Lileta can be kept in for 3-7 years for long term contraception.
Non-Hormonal or Copper IUDs, like ParaGard, can be used for upto 10 years. It is one of the longest and most hormone free methods of contraception that is currently available.
Once the recommended time of use is over, you need to contact your doctor to get the device removed safely.
what are the side effects of inserting an iud on periods?
While an IUD is a safe option and is opted for by many people, there are chances of some potential side effects, such as:
Irregular bleeding or spotting: Irregular bleeding and spotting are common effects of IUDs after insertion initially. People might get unpredictable bleeding, a longer or shorter period, and an increased number of spotting days. These issues are resolved in a couple of months, as the IUD settles in the body.
Changes in menstrual flow: Depending on the type of IUD that you have opted for, it can affect their menstrual flow.
Menstrual cramps and discomfort: You can experience cramps and discomfort especially during the first few days or months after the insertion. This is temporary and tends to go away as your body adapts to the IUD.
Infection: Even though this is extremely rare, some people can develop a pelvic infection after the IUD insertion. The symptoms can include fever, pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal discharge, or pain. Please consult your doctor if you face any of these symptoms after having an IUD inserted.
Expulsion: Again, a rare case, there are chances that your uterus might not react well to the IUD and expel it out. This can occur in the first few months or at any point in time without any noticeable symptoms. Checking IUD strings regularly is crucial - it helps you determine that the IUD is in place.
Perforation: There is a low risk of uterine perforation during IUD insertion. This happens when the IUD punctures the wall of the uterus. In such cases you need to undergo a surgical procedure to remove the IUD.
can you use a menstrual cup with an iud?
While we know many Asan cup users that are comfortable using the menstrual cup with an IUD, we recommend that you consult your doctor first. They can provide personalised advice based on the type of IUD you have.
As an IUD sits inside your uterus and a menstrual cup sits at the base of your vaginal canal, it is generally safe to use both at the same time.
A few tips when using a menstrual cup with an IUD:
1) Ensure proper insertion
Be very gentle while inserting and removing the cup to minimise the risk of dislodging the IUD.
Do not push the cup deep inside your vaginal canal and keep it at the lower end of the vagina. Avoid tugging on the IUD strings while inserting or removing the cup.
2) Break the suction while removal
It is important to remember that the cup forms a seal by the suction it creates inside your vaginal canal.
While removing the cup, it is crucial that you release the suction and break the seal by pinching the cup on the bottom, and then gently slide it out.
Read this blog on using a menstrual cup with an IUD to learn more.
frequently asked questions
What are the risks associated with IUDs?
Some of the risks associated with IUDS include irregular periods and cramps in the initial few months.
Some rare risks include IUD expulsion, pelvic infection and perforation in the uterus.
Can an IUD cause heavy periods?
Copper IUDs can cause heavier periods than your usual flow. But if you notice that your bleeding is extremely heavy over a long period of time, we suggest consulting a doctor about it.
Do IUDs make your period irregular?
Using an IUD can initially make your period irregular, but the symptoms tend to settle within a few months of insertion.
Will IUDs change the duration of my period?
Some IUDS can change the duration of your period. It’s always best to speak to your doctor and understand how it will work for you.
Can IUDs cause spotting between periods?
Yes, an IUD can cause spotting in between your periods. But it typically settles after a couple of months.
Do IUDs make periods lighter?
Yes, the hormonal IUD can make periods lighter. The synthetic hormone released by the hormonal IUD causes your endometrium lining to become thinner, which reduces your period flow.
Can IUDs cause painful periods?
Copper IUDs can cause painful periods and some discomfort for the first few months. If the pain persists, it’s best to talk to your doctor and get advice.
Hormonal IUDs do not cause painful periods.
Will IUDs stop my period completely?
Hormonal IUDs can completely stop your periods. Copper IUDs wont stop your periods because they don't release any hormones in your body.
Can IUDs affect your mood?
Hormonal IUDs have been known to sometimes cause PMS-like symptoms as it alters the hormonal composition of your body.
Can IUDs cause changes in menstrual cramps?
For some people IUD can change our menstrual cramps.
People with heavy periods and intense cramps find hormonal IUDs help reduce their period cramps.
Do IUDs affect fertility?
Studies have found that certain IUDs can lead to reduced fertility over the long term. We recommend that you speak to your doctor about the specific IUD you are considering and the effects it can have on your fertility.
How long does it take for an IUD to affect your period?
An IUD will usually start working the same day it has been inserted. However, please ask your doctor as this can vary across brands.