What is an IUD?
An IUD is a tiny t-shaped device that sits inside of the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Where exactly is the uterus? Remember this picture? You can see where the uterus is here. It is at the top of the vagina, and behind your bladder and in front of the rectum
IUDs are made of different things that prevent pregnancy in different ways. They can be made from copper, and these act to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. Other IUDs are made with hormones that thicken the mucus that covers the cervix so that the sperm cannot get through to meet the egg, and then also prevent the lining of the uterus from building up which is needed for pregnancy.
How long does the IUD last?
It depends which one you get. The copper IUD lasts up to 10 years, and the hormonal ones last between 3 and 5 years.
How does the IUD get put in?
Your doctor or nurse can insert the IUD with a tiny “straw-like” inserter that has the IUD in it. They put that through the normal opening in your cervix, and then when it is in the uterus, they release the IUD and it opens into the T-shape. The IUD has little threads or strings on the end which come through the cervix and hang out in your vagina. You can’t feel them, and usually your partner doesn’t either.
Many teens get some cramping when it is inserted, but once it is in place, you don’t feel anything.
Are there side effects?
Again, it depends of the type of IUD you choose – but side effects aren’t a big issue:
- Young women with the copper IUD sometimes get heavier and longer periods than they are used to.
- The hormonal IUD can make your periods lighter and less painful. Some women get light spotting that is unpredictable. And other women stop getting their periods altogether – this is OK and not anything to worry about.
How well does it work?
IUDs are very, very effective methods of birth control. More than 99% of women do not get pregnant when they use the IUD. One big reason is that you don’t have to remember it! It is always there until you decide to take it out.
How does it come out? And then what happens?
Your Doctor or Nurse can remove the IUD whenever it is time to change it or if you decide you want it removed. They will gently pull on the strings hanging into the vagina to slowly remove it back through the cervix. You can get pregnant right away after removing the IUD.
Anything else I should know?
The IUD does not protect against STDs. You still need a condom to help prevent infections. The IUD also does not damage your chances of getting pregnant later in life when you are ready to have a family. Very, very rarely the IUD can come out with your period (this is something I have read about but haven’t seen). So if you see the IUD in your pad or in your underwear, you will need to get a new one or use some other birth control.
For more on birth control options for teens see: http://stayteen.org/sex-ed/birth-control-explorer