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Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are one of the most effective forms of birth control, with some of the highest rates of satisfaction. IUDs work by acting as a goalkeeper, preventing the sperm from getting to the egg. If the sperm can’t reach the egg, it can’t fertilize it, and pregnancy can’t happen. Some of the most common hormonal IUDs are Mirena (7 years), Kyleena (5 years), Liletta (7 years), and Skyla (3 years). The most common copper IUD is Paragard (12 years), and it does not contain any hormones.
Paragard works by using copper, which repels the sperm from where the eggs are. Hormone-based IUDs work by thickening the mucus on the cervix, blocking and trapping the sperm, while also sometimes stopping eggs from leaving the ovaries.
Despite the above, IUDs still have a stigma. Articles with headlines like “I Got an IUD and Almost Died” and “When IUDs Go Terribly Wrong” abound – horror stories that are clouding the fact that an IUD is about 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Let’s talk about the top three myths and how science has debunked them.
The first myth is that IUDs can cause health risks, such as congenital disabilities or cancer.
This one isn’t true. According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, IUDs are perfectly safe!
Any infection related to the insertion of the IUD most likely occurs due to the instruments or the IUD itself carrying microorganisms from the genital tract. While some microorganisms or bacteria usually are present, the risk of infection is quite low. The likelihood of this type of infection from the lower genital tract can be reduced by following the “no-touch” insertion technique, which involves your medical professional wearing gloves, and not allowing the loaded IUD or instruments to touch any surfaces.
A subset of this myth is that the IUD will travel through your body, damaging other vital organs. The IUD will never move to your brain, heart, or any other part of your body – it’ll stay within the uterus. Very rarely, the IUD can come through the wall of your uterus and into the abdominal cavity, but proper insertion techniques can help to prevent this from happening.
Additionally, the IPPF says that IUDs will not cause cancer in otherwise healthy women. However, if you already have an infection or tumor, do not use the IUD, as it could be non-effective.
IUDs do not, and will not, increase your risk of contracts STIs – however, you should always use protection while engaging in intercourse.
Finally, IUDs will not cause or increase the risk of congenital disabilities after removal.
You may have heard stories about the pain of IUD insertion, that it’s unbearable. The pain that you may or may not experience will depend on your pain tolerance, the size of your cervix, and placement of the IUD.
According to Healthline, the IUD insertion process usually takes about 15 minutes. The steps taken to insert the IUD are:
Some women report pain or cramps when the cervix is being stabilized, when the IUD itself is inserted, or afterward.
Doctors usually prefer to insert the IUD during your normal menstrual cycle, as it can lessen the pain that some women feel. You can also have one put in immediately after giving birth.
Planned Parenthood says that you may experience cramping or spotting after getting the IUD, which should reside within 3-6 months.
If painful symptoms persist, call your doctor.
This myth is tricky, because it used to be true. However, it’s not anymore – IUDs are safe for most women, even if you’ve never had a child. You can have an IUD removed at any time by your medical professional if you would like to conceive. The NCBI found that most women who tried to conceive were successful within the first three months after the IUD was removed, and 94.3% overall conceived at some point after removal.
These are the top three myths that still prevail about IUDs. Now that you know the facts, if you are interested in one, research which type would be best for you, and talk to your doctor.