The intrauterine device (IUD) is the most effective form of birth control. It’s just as effective as permanent sterilization -- nearly 100% -- yet completely reversible.
After IUD placement into your uterus, it can stay there for three to 10 years, depending on the type of IUD. During that time, you have safe, reliable, and continuous protection from pregnancy.
There are two basic types of IUDs -- hormone-containing and nonhormonal -- and both are equally effective. Several brands are currently on the market; one slowly releases copper into the uterus and the others gradually release hormones.
The IUDs that contain hormones are safe for long-term use, because they release a tiny amount of hormone. They can also be used by women who can’t take estrogen, because they contain progestin.
Both types of IUDs prevent sperm from getting through the uterus and into the fallopian tube, so there’s no way an egg can be fertilized. The action of copper and progestin also enhances the IUD’s effectiveness by impairing sperm function.
Copper inhibits the ability of sperm to move, essentially acting like a spermicide. Progestin thickens mucus in the cervix, which traps sperm and stops them from entering the uterus.
The copper IUD can be used for 10 years. Some of the hormone-containing IUDs last three years, while others contain enough hormones to work for five years before they have to be replaced.
Before IUD placement, the length of your uterus and cervix is measured. Then the IUD and its attached thread are loaded inside a long, narrow tube -- the insertion device -- which is set to the same length as your cervix and uterus.
After inserting the tube through your cervix and into the uterus, your doctor releases the IUD and removes the insertion tube, leaving just enough thread outside your cervix that you can feel the end of the string.
You’ll need to go back for one follow-up exam to be sure the IUD is in place. Otherwise, you simply check for the string each month and return for your annual pelvic exam.
As soon as the IUD is inserted, it immediately begins to prevent pregnancy. You can choose to have it removed at any time, in a procedure that’s quick and easy, and may become pregnant right after it’s out of your uterus.
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