An intrauterine device (IUD) is a birth control device put into a woman's uterus by her healthcare provider. The uterus is the muscular organ at the top of the vagina. Babies grow in the uterus, and menstrual blood comes from the uterus, through the cervix. It is T-shaped with a string attached. There are 2 types of IUDs.
The IUD prevents pregnancy in several ways:
Talk to your healthcare provider about the risks of using an IUD if:
You should not use a copper IUD if you are allergic to copper or metals.
Your healthcare provider will put the IUD into your uterus through the vagina and cervix (the cervix is the opening of the uterus). The IUD is usually inserted during a menstrual period, when the cervix is slightly open and you are least likely to be pregnant. It takes only a few minutes to insert an IUD. You may feel some cramping pain while it is being put into place.
The copper IUD can also be used for emergency birth control. It can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Studies have shown it works to prevent pregnancy 99.9% of the time when it is used in this way.
The IUD could come out accidentally in the first few months after its placement, possibly without your knowing it. You might want to use a backup method of birth control during the first few months, just to be safe.
Your healthcare provider may want to examine you within 3 months after the insertion of the IUD to be sure that everything is normal. You need to see your provider regularly for checkups as long as you have the IUD in place. Talk with your provider about this.
During the first few months after insertion of the IUD, check often for the string attached to it to be sure that the IUD is still in the uterus. The string passes from the IUD inside the uterus through the cervix and into the vagina. The end of the string usually stays out of the way at the top of the vagina. You can check for the string by putting a finger inside the vagina and feeling for the string near the cervix. Be careful not to pull on the string. Also check for the string after every menstrual period and before you have sex. As long as you can feel the string, the IUD is in position and it is unlikely that you will get pregnant. If you feel the hard plastic of the IUD, it is no longer in the right place and you need to see your healthcare provider to change it.
Usually progesterone IUDs are replaced after 3 to 5 years, depending on the brand. Copper IUDs need to be replaced after 10 years. Removal or replacement of an IUD must be done by your healthcare provider. Do not try to remove the IUD yourself.