The Intrauterine Device or IUD is either a small hormone-releasing device or a non-hormonal Copper device (Copper T or Pearls IUD) that is inserted into your uterus. It is usually made of copper or plastic and is a highly effective long-term option. The IUD is perfect if you’re looking for convenience or if you find it difficult to remember to take the pill daily.

Copper IUDs work by altering how sperm cells move and preventing them from ever reaching an egg. They also create an immune response that halts the development of healthy eggs and destroys any eggs that do develop.

Hormonal IUDs, release progestin to prevent pregnancy by thickening the mucus in the cervix, thus blocking and trapping the sperm, as well as by sometimes preventing the egg from leaving your ovaries. This makes it nearly impossible for the sperm to ever reach the egg. It is important to note that hormonal IUDs can take up to a week to start working, so it’s best to ask your doctor if you should be using a backup contraceptive method until the IUD becomes effective.

The best part about the hormonal IUD is that it stops menstrual bleeding in about 70% of women. It’s a fantastic option for women with heavy or painful menstrual bleeding.

Doctor holding an IUD

How to get an IUD?

Placement of the IUD into the uterus is a nonsurgical process conducted by a gynaecologist in an office setting. The procedure takes a few minutes and is easily reversible. An IUD can be inserted and used until it expires, or you have it removed; this is usually after 5-12 years depending on the type and brand of IUD.

What are the side effects?

Side effects can include pain and discomfort when the IUD is first put in, cramping or backaches for a few days after the procedure, spotting between periods and irregular periods. These issues usually disappear within 3 months of the IUD placement.

How effective is the IUD and does it impact fertility?

The IUD allows for very little human error and is therefore 99% effective. The remaining 1% is usually caused by misplacement. Check the position of your IUD on a monthly basis by feeling for the IUD thread. This may however not be an easy task as threads sometimes get tucked inside in the cervical canal. It is therefore important to listen to your body and see a gynaecologist if something feels unusual.

If you decide you want to get pregnant, or you just don’t want your IUD anymore, your doctor can quickly and easily remove it. Fertility is restored almost immediately after the IUD is removed and you should be able to fall pregnant easily.

Dr Novikova discusses medical gynaecology treatment with patient
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