Real Talk: The Truth About IUDs

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Photo Courtesy of Sarah Mirk

Ladies, let’s talk birth control. What a lot of women don’t know is how many forms of birth control there are. So ask yourself, what would your ideal form of birth control be? Something that is effective, unforgettable and helps with your period? Well there’s good news: its called an intrauterine Device, or IUD. IUD’s are a form of birth control that flies heavily under the radar. A lot of people either have no idea what they are or they have heard common misconceptions about them.

When the question, ‘What do you know about IUDs?’ was asked to a bunch of college seniors, the responses looked like: “I don’t know much about it,” said Carman Fredini, 21, NYU student. As well as “Not enough,” said Shaye Davis, 21, NYU student. Another senior, Shauna Morgan, 21, from Baylor University said that he used to see a commercial for IUDs and their side effects on Hulu. Morgan said they used to “freak” her out and she swore she’d never get one.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, among contraceptive users, the groups of women who most commonly use IUDs and implants are those aged 25–34, those born outside of the United States, those living in Western states, those reporting their religious affiliation as “other” and those who have ever stopped using a non-long-acting reversible contraceptive hormonal method.

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What is an IUD?
An intrauterine device is a small “T”-shaped plastic and flexible device that is inserted into your uterus by a licensed medical professional such as a gynecologist or a nurse practitioner.

According to Dr. Maria Giannopoulos, a gynecologist at the Garden City Obstetrics & Gynecology, said that IUDs are “excellent options.” Dr. Giannopoulos said that patients are generally very happy (with the device) and have had a lot of positive results.

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What types of IUD’s are there?

There are two types of IUD’s: a nonhormonal and a hormonal kind. The nonhormonal kind is called ParaGard and it has copper wire wrapped around it. There are four brands of the hormonal kind, Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla.

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How do IUD’s work?

According Planned Parenthood, both copper and hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by changing the way the sperm cells move so they can’t get to an egg. If the sperm can’t make it to and get inside the egg, pregnancy can’t happen.

Since the ParaGard IUD is made from copper and the sperm doesn’t like copper, the IUD makes it almost impossible for sperm to get to that egg.

The hormone, in the Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla IUDs prevent pregnancy in two ways: it thickens the mucus on the cervix, which blocks and traps the sperm, and then the  hormone, progestin, stops the eggs from leaving your ovaries (a process we like to call ovulation), which then results in no baby!

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How long do IUD’s stay effective?

The ParaGard IUD can last up until 12 years after insertion. The hormone-based kinds vary from three-six years depending upon which one you get.

The best part of IUD’s are that they aren’t permanent. So if you feel like you’re ready for a family or you just don’t want it in anymore, your medical professional can take it out quick and easy. Unlike other forms of birth control, your fertility goes back to normal right after your IUD is out, so it’s possible to get pregnant right away.

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How effective are IUD’s?

Sixty-seven percent of women who practice contraception currently use nonpermanent methods, primarily hormonal methods (the pill, patch, implant, injectable and vaginal ring), IUDs and condoms. IUDs are pretty much mistake-proof. According to Planned Parenthood, IUDs are one of the best birth control methods out there — more than 99% effective. That means fewer than 1 out of 100 women who use an IUD will get pregnant each year.

Think about it! There’s no forgetting to take your pill, or get your shot or switch your ring, etc. You’re being protected 24/7, 365 for however long you have it in for.

“I heard that they’re very painful to get inserted,” said Carolyn Fanelli, 21, Fordham University student.

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How is an IUD inserted?

It’s a little nerve wracking when you’re sitting on the table without your pants on, just waiting for the doctor to come in and insert a little T-shaped plastic thing into your uterus… But knowing that in 10 minutes you’ll be done and pregnant free for years? There’s no comparison to how much relief you’ll feel… afterwards.

According to Planned Parenthood, to put the IUD in, the nurse or doctor will insert a speculum, an instrument inserted into the vagina to dilate it for examination of the vagina and cervix, inside your vagina and then use a special inserter to put the IUD through the opening of your cervix and finally, into your uterus. The process usually takes less than five minutes.

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How does it feel to have an IUD inserted?

It depends on the person, their body and their pain tolerance. There is almost always moderate to mild cramping. Some women are fine after an hour or so, while others are in pain for the whole day. It feels as if you were getting your period. Though some people may become faint or dizzy after the insertion, it is recommended to bring someone with you just incase. Some doctors have their patients take medicine prior to coming in for the insertion.

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What can I expect after my IUD is inserted?

According to Planned Parenthood, many people feel perfectly fine right after they get an IUD, while others need to take it easy for a while. There can be some cramping and backaches, so plan on chilling at home after your appointment — it’s a great excuse to curl up on the couch with your favorite book or movie. Heating pads and over-the-counter pain meds can help ease cramps too. You’re pretty much treating your symptoms as you would for a normal period.

You may have cramping and spotting after getting an IUD, but this almost always goes away within 3-6 months. Hormonal IUDs eventually make periods lighter and less crampy, and you might stop getting a period at all. At the same time, copper IUDs may make periods heavier and cramps worse. For some people, this goes away over time. If your IUD is causing you pain, discomfort, or side effects you don’t like, you should call your doctor right away.

Once you get the IUD, a string about 1 or 2 inches long will come out of your cervix and into the top of your vagina; don’t worry, you won’t notice it. The string is there so a nurse or doctor can remove the IUD later. You can feel the string by putting your fingers in your vagina and reaching up toward your cervix. But don’t tug on the string, because you could move your IUD out of place or pull it out.

There’s a very small chance that your IUD could slip out of place. It can happen any time, but it’s more common during the first 3 months. IUDs are most likely to come out during your period. Check your pads, tampons, or cups to see if it fell out. You can also check your string to make sure it’s still there. If your IUD falls out, you’re not protected from pregnancy, so make sure to go see your doctor, and use condoms or another kind of birth control in the meantime.

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Are IUDs safe?

Can any woman get an IUD you ask? Well according to Planned Parenthood, most people can use IUDs safely, but there are some conditions that make side effects or complications more likely. Talk to your nurse or doctor to find out if IUDs are safe for you.

You shouldn’t get any kind of IUD if you:

  • have or might have an STD or other pelvic infection
  • think you might be pregnant
  • have cervical cancer that hasn’t been treated
  • have cancer of the uterus
  • have vaginal bleeding that’s not your period
  • have had a pelvic infection after either childbirth or an abortion in the past 3 months

You also shouldn’t get a ParaGard IUD if you have a copper allergy, Wilson’s Disease, or a bleeding disorder that makes it hard for your blood to clot. You also shouldn’t get a hormonal IUD if you have had breast cancer. Very rarely, the size or shape of someone’s uterus makes it hard to place an IUD correctly.

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What are the benefits to having an IUD?

As previously mentioned before, these are the pros to having an IUD:

  • IUDs are VERY effective
  • IUDs are REALLY convenient
  • You can get pregnant after taking out an IUD
  • IUDs can make your periods better
  • The copper IUD doesn’t have hormones
  • The copper IUD can be used as emergency contraception.

ParaGard IUDs are the most effective form of emergency contraception out there. If you get one within 120 hours (5 days) of having unprotected sex, it’s over 99% effective against pregnancy.

IUD’s have failure rates of less than 1% for both perfect and typical use. This method has low typical-use failure rates because they don’t require user intervention.

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What are the downsides to having an IUD?

These are the cons of having an IUD:

  • IUDs don’t protect against STDs

Some people have side effects after getting an IUD. They usually go away in about 3–6 months, once your body gets used to the visitor in your uterus. So if you can stick it out for a few months, there’s a good chance the side effects will ease up.

Side effects can include:

  • mild to moderate pain when the IUD is put in
  • cramping or backaches for a few days after insertion
  • spotting between periods
  • irregular periods
  • heavier periods and worse menstrual cramps (ParaGard)

Pain medicine can usually help with cramping. If the bleeding or cramping gets pretty bad and doesn’t seem to get better, tell your nurse or doctor what’s going on.

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How does it feel to get my IUD removed?

According to Planned Parenthood, getting your IUD taken out is pretty quick and simple. A health care provider gently pulls on the string, and the IUD’s arms fold up and it slips out. You may feel cramping for a minute as it comes out.

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What can I expect after getting my IUD removed?

Basically, everything should go back to normal – before you had your IUD. You may have some spotting, depending upon the person will determine how long you’ll spot for. Overall, it’s as if you pressed the pause button on your pregnancy cycle and told Mother Nature you weren’t ready!

One of the most important tips to take away from this information, is to talk to your doctor or a medical professional about all of your questions. Lindsey Yancey, 21, is a nursing student at the Baptist School of Health Professions in San Antonio, TX and received her IUD on September 4, 2017. Yancey’s doctor did not inform her of how painful the procedure could be and was also not very knowledgable on the subject. “I contemplated getting it removed…” Yancey said. She decided to switch doctors and seek better medical attention only to find out her IUD was too big for her uterus. Her new doctor was shocked at her old one’s decisions, especially knowing she had never had kids before. All in all, Yancey is very happy with her decision to have her IUD inserted and is excited that her cramps are going away and that she doesn’t have to remember to take anything. “I am happy that i have five years of contraceptive protection,” said Yancey.

So talk to your doctor if this birth control method interests you. IUDs are just one of many forms of birth control helping the women of this world have that much more control of their lives. It allows us to have a say in what we want and don’t want. If they aren’t for you, then that’s alright. Find something that is convenient and the best option for you. Like everything else, it has its pros and cons, but it’s an option and it’s an option for you!

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