USING INTRAUTERINE DEVICES (IUDs)

What are IUDs?

  • An IUD is a small T-shaped device that is put into a person’s uterus by a healthcare provider in their office. The IUD stays in place for 3 -10 years or until it is removed by a healthcare provider.
  • There are two types of IUDs available:

Copper

  • Copper IUDs are made of plastic and copper.
  • They are more cost-effective.
  • They contain no hormones.
  • Copper IUDs can make periods heavier, longer and crampier. People who already experience heavy, crampy periods may prefer a progestin IUD.  
  • Copper IUDs are also highly effective as emergency contraception if inserted within 7 days of unprotected intercourse. For more information about accessing providers in BC, visit www.emergencyiud.com.

Progesterone (Hormonal)

  • Progesterone IUDs (Brand name Mirena, Kyleena) are made of plastic and a small amount of the progesterone hormone called levonorgestrel.
  • Although most people will get some spotting in the first month or two after their Mirena has been inserted, periods will become lighter and easier.  
  • About 20% of people with the Mirena IUD will have no periods after the first year of use.  
  • The amount of hormone in the Mirena IUD is less than in birth control pills, patches, or shots. Only about 5% of women will notice any hormone side effects (e.g. weight gain, mood changes, or acne).

How do IUDs work?

  • Copper IUDs prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from fertilizing an egg and reducing sperm movement.
  • Progesterone IUDs prevent pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus to block sperm entering the uterus. They also thin the uterus lining, making it a good choice for people with heavy periods.

How effective are IUDs?

  • IUDs are a very effective method of birth control. They are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
    • The IUD is always in place. There is nothing to do before you have intercourse.  
    • It is good method for people who are breastfeeding (after six weeks postpartum) or who cannot use estrogen.
    • It is immediately reversible with no long-term effects on fertility.  
    • Reduced cost over time compared to other methods.  
    • Most health benefit plans will pay for the hormonal IUD so for some, it is the most cost-effective choice.

    Copper IUDs are also highly effective as emergency contraception if inserted within 7 days of unprotected intercourse. For more information about accessing providers in BC, visit www.emergencyiud.com

  • Requires at least one visit to a health care provider.  
  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Some people experience amenorrhea (absence of period) with the hormonal  IUD, although some people view this as an advantage.
  • Many people experience heavier and crampier periods with a copper IUD
  • Up front cost
  • Cannot be returned to a pharmacy or to Options after purchase.

How do I get an IUD?  

  • IUDs are inserted by a qualified healthcare provider in their clinic.
  • IUDs can be inserted immediately after delivery, 4 weeks postpartum, or immediately after an abortion.  
  • IUDs can be inserted at any time during the menstrual cycle.  
  • A Copper IUD can be inserted up to 7 days after unprotected intercourse as emergency contraception
  • Removal of an IUD is quick and easy and can be done by your healthcare provider in their clinic.

Who can get an IUD?

  • IUDs are an excellent choice, they are safe and effective for most people.
  • You should not use IUD if you:
    • Have an active pelvic infection. But an IUD can be inserted after treatment.
    • Are allergic to copper (copper IUDs only) or may have adverse effects from progesterone (hormonal IUDs).  
    • Are already pregnant.  
    • Have unexplained uterine bleeding or anemia.
    • Have certain types of cancer or tumors.  
    • Have an abnormal cervix or unusually shaped uterus.  
    • Are less than 4 weeks postpartum (unless inserted immediately following delivery).

There are some signs that all people with an IUD should be aware of, these may indicate a serious complication. Seek medical attention immediately if you have any of the following PAINS symptoms:

Period late (pregnancy), abnormal spotting, or bleeding

Abdominal pain, pain with intercourse

Infection exposure, abnormal discharge

Not feeling well, fever, or chills

String missing or seems long.

Seems confusing? We’re here for you!

We know it can be confusing to choose a method. We are here to help. Our Options for Sexual Health Clinics are staffed by health care professionals who are there to answer your questions.  They can help you learn how to use the method you choose and bring you back to check in on how the method is working for you.

Between visits or anytime, our Sex Sense team is there to answer any questions you might have by phone (1-800-739-7367) or by email at SexSense.org

This is general information and should not be used in place of individual consultation with a qualified healthcare provider.

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