How do IUDs help in birth control?
There are several birth control options available today for men and women including:
- Birth control pills – That are taken every day or on an emergency basis
- Vasectomy for men
- Tubal ligation for women where the fallopian tubes are disconnected
- Hysterectomy – removal of uterus
- IUD – Intra Uterine Devices (hormone releasing or copper based)
- Patches or Vaginal rings
- Abstaining from sex
If you haven’t read about the pros and cons of using birth control pills, you can visit the following article.
One major drawback in using birth control pills is that you must take the pill everyday and there are chances that you may forget every now and then because of several other things in your busy life. Another easier birth control method is – using IUD, Intra Uterine Device that is placed inside your body (cervix and uterus) to prevent pregnancy.
There are mainly two types of IUDs available:
- A hormone releasing IUD
- Copper based IUD
Except in the way they work to prevent pregnancy, the procedure of insertion and removal are the same. Each one has its pros and cons. Read on to know more and you decide which one to prefer along with your gynecologist.
How do IUDs look like?
Typically IUDs look like a ‘T’, consisting of a stem on top of which there are two flanges that bend onto their sides to form a T shape. At the other end of the stem, strings are present that help in inserting and removing the device inside the cervix.
Working of Hormone releasing IUD
Firstly, the shape of the IUD resembles the shape of the cervix and uterus joint and it is placed exactly right there to fit in. The placement prevents the sperms from getting into the uterus. (Not 100% but a little).
Secondly, the placement of a foreign body inside the uterus causes inflammation. When there is inflammation, the immune system of the body jumps into the scene and attacks any foreign biological entity, the sperms in this case.
Third, the actual function – Release of progestin hormone. Hormone releasing IUD releases progestin that changes the hormonal balance inside the woman’s body. This results in:
- Thickening of the mucus at the cervix. Because of the thickening of the mucus, sperms find it hard to enter the uterus.
- Thinning of the inner lining of the uterus, the endometrium. As the endometrium loses thickness, it also loses the capacity to hold the egg or the zygote (after fertilization) thereby preventing pregnancy.
- In some people, this hormone may totally prevent the egg from being released.
Care to be taken after getting a hormone releasing IUD placed
- It is better to avoid sex or insertion of tampons, toys, menstrual cups for a period of 48 hours after placement of the IUD.
- You may not be protected during the first one week after placing the IUD. Talk to your doctor from when you can have unprotected sex.
- During the initial 3 months, you may see little spotting in between the periods. This is common and it should go away after 3 months. If you see heavier bleeding in the middle of the periods, see your gynecologist immediately.
Side effects of hormone releasing IUD
- Change in your periods – you may have lighter, shorter and sometimes irregular periods. This is due to the imbalance that occurs because of release of progestin by the IUD.
- 15 to 40% of the women may stop getting their periods after first one year, again due to the hormonal imbalance. Once the device is removed, your menstrual cycle should come back to normal.
- Different brands of IUDs release different amounts of progestin. The symptoms vary depending on the amount of the hormone released by the device.
- Some women may experience acne, headache and sore breasts.
- Very rarely, few women may experience depression. You must talk to your doctor if you feel so, immediately.
Working of Copper based IUD (Also called Copper T)
Copper based IUD also works partly in a similar way like the hormone releasing IUD. Placement of a foreign body results in inflammation and the body’s immune system starts fighting against the sperms that enter the body. The inflammatory reaction of the body is also not good for the egg that is released.
Copper metal that is wound around the stem of the instrument (Copper T), releases copper ions due to the inflammatory reaction of the body. The ions act as spermicidal agents effectively killing the sperms that enter the body. Some researchers suggest that, the release of copper ions is also harmful to the egg released. The egg will lose its ability to join with the sperm and even if it fertilizes, it will not be able to survive in the body.
Benefits of copper based IUDs
- No release of hormones. The balance of hormones will be maintained in your body and you will have your periods regularly. However, the periods may be heavier than normal.
Side effects of copper based IUDs
- Heavier than normal periods
- Cramps and pain in abdomen during periods. If you think that the pain is unbearable, you must get in touch with your gynecologist immediately.
Important notes about using IUDs to prevent pregnancy
- Before getting an IUD inserted, your gynecologist will ask for testing for common STDs. If you have an STD and still proceed with getting an IUD placed, that can result in pelvic inflammation disorder and eventually to infertility.
- You must also be sure that you are not pregnant when you get an IUD implanted in your body.
- IUDs have a fixed lifetime ranging from 3 to 10 years. You will need to remember when you are getting it inserted so that you can get it removed before it expires.
- It is easier for women who gave birth to a child to get it inserted than women who haven’t. Your experienced gynecologist will be able to insert it in either case.
- Spotting is common during the first 3 months after the IUD is placed, should have more bleeding in between your periods; you must see your gynecologist.
- In some cases, the IUD will be expelled and it will fall off your vagina. In such cases, you should get another one inserted.
- Your gynecologist will not insert an IUD, if you are suffering from cysts, fibroids, STD, uterine or cervical cancer or if you have given birth very recently.
- Typically a penis will not feel the device or the strings when having sex.
- An IUD will not prevent you from contracting or spreading STDs.