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Intrauterine device method of birth control

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Intrauterine device (IUD) method is a birth control technique. It’s a small T-shaped flexible plastic that is inserted by the doctor in the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

Types of IUD and their Mode of Action

Copper IUD (Paragard)- The copper wire is wrapped at the base of the device which slowly releases copper ions that act as a spermicide. The copper ions stimulate an inflammatory response during which the ovary and the fallopian tube secrete a fluid containing prostaglandins, copper ion and WBCs. The sperms get killed on coming in contact with the copper ions. Copper IUDs are inserted for 10 years.

Hormonal IUD (Minera)- The hormone Levonorgestrel- a progestin hormone is released from the vertical end of the T device makes the mucus of the cervix thick and sticky in an attempt to block the passage of sperm to the egg. Levonorgestrel is also toxic to sperm. Another mode of action is- the hormones released by this device thin the endometrium, thereby preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. Its effectiveness can last for 5 years.

Who should not have IUD inserted?

Women who fall under the following categories are restricted form IUD use:

  • Pregnant
  • Suffered from pelvic inflammatory disease post abortion or childbirth
  • Has uterus cancer, pelvic tuberculosis
  • Experiences abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Suffers from STDs or STIs
  • Has liver disease or breast cancer (Hormonal IUD is restricted)
  • Allergic to copper or Wilson’s disease (copper IUD is restricted)

What to expect before insertion?

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  • The device is inserted any time during your menstrual cycle.
  • Your doctor will conduct a pregnancy test to rule out that you are not pregnant.
  • Tests for STDs will be done. Your doctor will proceed further only if you ruled out of STDs
  • Your doctor will enquire about your general health, future family plans, medical history, etc. The technique will also be explained to you

What to expect during the insertion

  • A mild pain killer may be given to you and you have to lie down on your back.
  • The doctor will conduct a pelvic exam prior to inserting the device
  • The cervix is rinsed with an antiseptic, followed by mild anesthesia
  • A probe is inserted to get an idea on where exactly the IUD should be placed
  • IUDs come in a kits and it is inserted with the help of an insertion tube through the cervix
  • The IUD is set properly in the uterus and the insertion tube is removed

What to expect after the insertion

  • Your doctor will restrict you from jerky movements for a few days
  • Mild cramping will be there in the lower abdomen along with mild spotting for 2-3 days
  • A copper IUD is effective immediately while hormonal IUD might take 7 days to initiate protection. Use of condoms is recommended during that period.
  • Your doctor might schedule another appointment after 6 days. However, make sure you go for a checkup every 3 months to ensure that it’s in the right place

Advantages of IUD birth control

  • Highly effective and affordable
  • Lowers risk of ectopic pregnancy
  • No weight gain
  • Improves sex life
  • IUDs can be removed easily when you want to get pregnant
  • Hormonal IUDs reduce heavy period and menstrual cramping

Disadvantages of IUD birth control

  • Irregular periods in the first 3 - 6 months
  • Copper IUDs can increase menstrual bleeding and cramping
  • Hormonal IUDs can cause mood swings, acne and even ovarian cysts
  • Risks of expulsion of IUD through vagina

Your doctor will let you know whether you are suitable to undergo an IUD insertion. Follow the post operative advices given by your doctor. Make sure you visit your doctor if you notice abnormal pain, continuous bleeding or any other complications after wearing the device.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 11, 2015