Everything you need to know about IUDs
From trying to figure out which birth control is best for you to researching the random questions regarding side effects that always seem to inevitably come up during conversations with friends, navigating the world of birth control sometimes feels like a never-ending marathon.
With the many different options available to us, of course, come the many different questions. One common birth control method to explore is the IUD. Since research is an essential first step in understanding what’s best for you, your body, and your long-term goals, we’ve compiled details on the two different types of IUDs and done the research on whether IUDs can negatively impact your fertility.
What exactly is an IUD?
An Intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small but highly effective method of birth control that doctors have studied since the early 20th century. Throughout its interesting history, IUDs have taken on different forms, but modern IUDs are tiny T-shaped plastic devices that your gynecologist inserts through the opening of your cervix into your uterus. Though this sounds intrusive, most IUDs are about the size of a quarter and only take around five minutes for your doctor to insert.
Depending on the type you decide to use, IUDs can stay inserted and effective for three to twelve years depending on the type of IUD. Note: since IUDs can be a long-lasting contraceptive, they are sometimes referred to as LARCs (long-acting reversible contraception). Because the device stays put in your uterus, you’re protected from pregnancy without the chance of making a mistake like forgetting to take a daily pill (we’ve all been there...yes, more than once). This is one of the reasons IUDs are 99.99% effective in preventing pregnancy!
What are the different types of IUDs?
As of right now, there are five different IUD brands that the FDA approved for usage in the United States: Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, Skyla, and Paragard. Four of these are hormonal contraceptives and one is non-hormonal.
The Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla IUDs are all hormonal contraceptives. This means each releases a hormone called progestin. Progestin is a synthetic hormone that’s very similar to progesterone, which our bodies naturally produce. Progestin can prevent pregnancy in two ways:
It causes your body to thicken the natural mucus on your cervix, which blocks sperm from traveling into your uterus.
It may stop your ovaries from releasing an egg into your fallopian tubes during a process called ovulation. This isn’t always the case, though; about 40% of people who use a progestin-based contraceptive will continue to ovulate. No need to worry if you’re in this 40% -- the thickening of the mucus on your cervix will still occur!
Each of these IUDs can stay in your uterus and release progestin for extended amounts of time:
Mirena is effective for up to seven years. Liletta is effective up to 6 years,, Kyleena is effective for up to five years, and Skyla for three.
It’s also important to note that though these IUDs have progestin in common, each releases a different amount and can affect your period in a different way. To fully understand how these IUDs may impact your body’s unique cycle, we recommend talking with your gynecologist.
The Paragard IUD is currently the only non-hormonal IUD available in the U.S. Instead of containing progestin, part of the Paragard device is wrapped in a small copper wire. But how does copper prevent pregnancy? The localized release of the metal actually repels sperm and changes their swimming patterns away from your uterus (amazing, right?). On top of this, the copper slightly changes the lining of your uterus as well as the mucus on your cervix to be a not so hospitable place for sperm to be.
This IUD is the longest lasting of all five options. After insertion, Paragard is effective for up to twelve years.
Fun fact: Paragard is also one of the best emergency contraception options. If inserted within five days of unprotected sex, its 99.99% effective in preventing pregnancy...All thanks to that little bit of copper!
Removal, and will any of them impact fertility?
Though these IUDs are effective for a number of years, they can easily be removed at any time, for any reason. To get an IUD removed, your gynecologist will only need a few minutes for the procedure and you’ll be all set.
One reason to get an IUD removed is if you’re trying to get pregnant, and though there is a common myth that IUDs negatively impact fertility, they do not. *Big sigh of relief* On top of that, if you’re trying to conceive as soon as possible, your fertility returns almost immediately after getting your IUD removed.
We know how these concerns about fertility after contraceptive use can stick with though. If you still have some doubts, check out the summarized findings of twenty two different studies on the topic. Collectively, these studies observed over 14,000 women and found that contraceptives, like the pill and IUDs, do not affect fertility. Specifically, they found that 83.1% of the women involved were able to conceive within the first year they stopped using birth control. This means that using contraceptives (even for a long time) does not impact your chances of conceiving. You can rest assured knowing these contraceptives are safe and helpful tools to use before trying to get pregnant.
With a 99.99% effective rate and no negative effects to your fertility, IUDs are a great birth control option that millions of women choose as their go-to contraceptive. However, everyone’s bodies, needs, and situations are different, so we encourage you to talk with your primary care physician or gynecologist to figure out which birth control option is the best for you.