Intrauterine contraception or an IUD, is a popular long term birth control device that is relatively no fuss for women. Also known as the contraceptive coil, it is available in two types, the hormonal and the copper IUD, both of which are inserted in to a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy.
The hormonal IUD is T shaped, made of plastic and once inserted releases small amounts of progestogen (a hormone similar to progesterone, naturally produced by the female body) directly in to the uterus.
Copper IUD’s are either made of copper or plastic and work in the same way although they do not release hormones.
Intrauterine Contraception Prevents Pregnancy By:
- Averting sperm from travelling through the uterus and fertilizing eggs
- Altering the lining of the uterus thus making it unsuitable for pregnancy
- The hormonal IUD contraceptive also prevents sperm from entering the uterus by thickening the mucus of the cervix
Each form of intrauterine contraception is highly successful with copper IUD effectiveness at 99% and the hormonal IUD at 99.9% effectiveness. Both contraceptive IUD have their advantages and disadvantages that may or may not work with your body, however a huge benefit of using either form is that once inserted it cannot be felt by yourself or your partner. Although this can feel a little unsettling at first, most brands have devices that have fine nylon threads attached to the lower end that curtail through the cervix and into the upper vagina. These threads offer piece of mind by allowing you to check that the IUD is still in place, while also allowing for easy IUD removal by a doctor.
Once inserted this no fuss form of contraception can remain inside the uterus from between five to ten years depending on which type you have. This can allow you to go about your daily life and sex life without having to worry about condoms breaking, or forgetting to take the pill. It’s always there ready and working all of the time, which also means that you can have sex at any time or on the spur of the movement. This is something that can be difficult at times with other forms of contraception, especially if you use the diaphragm contraceptive.
You will need a full consultation with you doctor to determine if uterine contraception is firstly suitable for you, and also which type, whether the hormonal or copper IUD is better matched for you body. Each work in much the same way, however the hormonal IUD does have differing possible side effects to the copper IUD. Two women fitted with a different IUD may experience significantly different side effects. With one successfully experiencing lighter periods on the hormonal IUD and the other suffering from severe heavier bleeding on the copper IUD if it does not agree with her body. Clear consultation with your doctor is paramount when deciding to fit either device inside of your body for long periods of time.
Advantages Of Intrauterine Contraception
- It’s long lasting (between 5 & 10 years depending on the type of device ) and highly effective.
- It cannot be felt during intercourse by yourself or your partner
- It’s a no fuss form of contraception
- Once removed, there is usually a very quick turn around back to fertility
- Intrauterine Contraception is relatively inexpensive
Disadvantages Of The Contraceptive IUD
- Insertion and IUD removal can only be performed by a trained doctor. The fitting of which can also be quite uncomfortable and very unpleasant for some women.
- Both types of intrauterine contraception can cause changes in periods and bleeding patterns
- If pregnancy does occur in the uterus, there is an increased risk of miscarriage
- Birth control IUD does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases
Main Differences Between The Hormonal & Copper IUD
- The hormonal IUD is effective in preventing pregnancy for up to 5 years. The Copper IUD can last for 10 years.
- The hormonal IUD can lead to much lighter periods, with some women not bleeding at all after about 12 months of use. It can also be used to treat excessively heavy bleeding and reduces period pain. The Copper IUD can have the opposite effect on your menstrual pattern, with longer and sometimes more painful periods.
- There are limited hormonal side effects for using the hormonal IUD as only very small amounts of progestogen pass in to the bloodstream, meaning there is little or no effect on acne, weight gain or mood change between users. There are no hormonal side effects using the copper IUD, as it does not release hormones.
IUD Side Effects
- Some women can experience abdominal pain or cramping
- In extremely rare cases a serious complication known as uterine perforation can occur over time, where the device slips through the wall of the uterus and in to the pelvic area. Perforation can cause internal scarring, infection, or damage to other organs. In this event the IUD can only be removed by surgery under a general anesthetic.
- Sometimes following the first few months of the insertion, the IUD can be pushed partially or completely out of the uterus. It’s for this reason you must check the nylon threads are still there and in place.
- IUD’s can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. Although rare, this complication can occur in the few first weeks after the insertion. In severe cases it can lead to infertility.
Overall intrauterine contraception is best suited to women who are at low risk of catching sexually transmitted infections and those who don’t wish to take the oral birth control pill.