Intrauterine Device (IUD): Fast Facts

  • An IUD is a plastic, T-shaped device that is placed in a woman's uterus to prevent pregnancy.
  • IUDs are considered to be 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy but do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
  • There are two types of IUDs -- copper IUD and hormone-releasing IUD. Both can be implanted by a healthcare professional in a matter of minutes.
  • An IUD is implanted in the uterus and cannot be felt by the woman or the woman's partner during sexual intercourse.
  • An IUD provides immediate birth control protection and can be removed easily if desired or necessary.
  • A copper IUD does not introduce any hormones into a woman's body and it is the longest-lasting form of contraception available today.
  • Benefits of an IUD include a relatively easy insertion procedure, little maintenance of the device and a low risk of side effects.
  • If checked regularly, a copper IUD may remain in a woman's uterus up to 10 years before it needs to be changed.
  • Women who may not be candidates for an IUD include those who have had cancer of the cervix or uterus, a history or risk of ectopic pregnancy or autoimmune diseases, such as HIV.
  • Some of the possible side effects associated with a copper IUD are heavier menstrual periods, abdominal cramps, back pain or mood changes.
  • A woman needs to monitor the placement of her IUD by periodically checking for the presence of the string attached to the device.
  • A hormone-releasing IUD may cause irregular or cessation of a woman's menstrual period as well as mood changes.
  • If an IUD becomes displaced, a woman must use an alternative form of birth control and contact her ObGyn for an examination.
  • The older type of IUD that was associated with pelvic infections and infertility has been removed from the market and these complications rarely occur with the new IUDs.

Reviewed by Joanne Poje Tomasulo, M.D., ACOG

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