The Intra-Uterine Device (IUD); Definition, Effectiveness, Side Effects & Facts

IUDs are implantable devices that renders the lining tissues of the womb inhospitable for the implantation of a fertilized egg. The IUD must be inserted into the uterus by an experienced health-care professional. The procedure is simple and safe and should take about 5 to 10 minutes. There are 2 types of IUDs: 

  • Copper IUD – contains Copper, lasts for 3, 5 or 10 years 
  • Hormonal IUD – contains the hormone Progesterone, lasts for 3 or 5 years. 

How Does it Work? 

Copper ions prevent pregnancy by inhibiting the movement of sperms because the copper-containing fluids are directly toxic to the sperm. However, when the sperm does reach the egg and fertilization occurs, the copper ion laden environment prevents implantation of the fertilized egg, and thus pregnancy. The progesterone-releasing IUDs impair the implantation of the egg in the uterine wall. 

How Well Does an IUD work? 

Copper and Hormonal IUDs have shown to be 99% effective. 

Does an IUD Cause Pain? 

Ideally, an IUD should not cause pain although the insertion procedure may cause brief discomfort similar to menstrual cramping. An anesthetic can be injected into the cervix prior to the insertion procedure. 

How Much Does It Cost? 

On average, the initial medical examination, the IUD, the insertion procedure and the follow-up can cost around Kshs. 2,500-3,000. This cost covers your pregnancy prevention for 3 to 10 years depending on which IUD you choose. Hormonal IUDs tend to cost more than Copper IUDs. 

How Soon does an IUD Start Working? 

The IUD should begin preventing pregnancy as soon as it is inserted however, full protection is believed to take about 7 days depending on when in the menstrual cycle it is inserted. If it is put in during your period or within 7 days of ending your menstrual period, it should be effective right away. At any other time of the menstrual cycle, you should use another method of birth control for the first week after insertion. 

Can I Remove the IUD myself? 

An IUD must be removed by a health-care professional. It is very important that you NEVER attempt to remove an IUD on your own because serious problems may result. Complications of IUD removal are rare; therefore, it can take place at any time. Nonetheless, removal is easier during the menstrual period, when a woman’s cervix is typically softer than during other times in the menstrual cycle. 

Can my Partner Feel it? 

Your partner shouldn’t be able to feel anything, but if they do, it will only be minor contact with the strings of the IUD. This should not cause any discomfort. The strings soften the longer you have the IUD in. 

Does an IUD protect me from STIs? 

NO. An IUD does NOT prevent or protect you from sexually transmitted infections. You should use a condom to protect yourself from STIs. However, note that you should not use and IUD if you have an STI or recently had one. 

What are the Side Effects of an IUD? 

Most women report changes in their period. The Copper IUD may cause heavier menstrual bleeding and worsen menstrual cramps especially in the first few months. This usually gets better with time. 

 The Hormonal IUD, on the other hand, may reduce menstrual bleeding; most people will have light bleeding or no period at all. Alternatively, women with hormonal IUDs may have irregular periods and spotting particularly in the first three to six months. 

DISCALIMER: 

Side effects from this birth control method can be different for everyone. The ones you get depend on which type of IUD you have and your medical history. There’s no way to predict how your body will respond to an IUD. If you do have any problems, it’s important to let your doctor know about them. 

What are the Warning Signs and Symptoms of Possible Complications From an IUD? 

Warning signs of possible complications from an IUD include: 

  • Abdominal Pain 
  • Heavy Bleeding 
  • Abnormal spotting or bleeding 
  • Smelly vaginal discharge 

If any woman experiences any of the above symptoms, she should visit a health-care professional. 

Pros 

Some of the advantages of an IUD include: 

  • Long acting – It lasts for between 3 and 10 years depending on the type of IUD. 
  • Reversible – You can choose to have it taken out at any time.   
  • A ‘fit and forget’ – You don’t need to think about contraception every day. 
  • The Copper IUD can be used as emergency contraception. 
  • Does NOT affect future fertility – a study in China found that nearly 80 percent of women who chose to have a copper IUD removed were able to get pregnant afterwards. 
  • Safe to use while breastfeeding. 
  • Does NOT get in the way of sex. 
  • It’s a one-time cost, you pay upfront. 
  • 99% effective. 

Cons 

  • NO STD protection. 
  • A hormonal IUD may give you irregular or light bleeding. 
  • copper IUD can cause an allergic reaction but this is very rare. 
  • A copper IUD may give you more bleeding and cramping during your period; but this bets better with time. 
  • The IUD can sometimes slip out of place or come out. (About 5% of all IUDs) 
  • There is a very small risk of damage to the uterus. (About 1 in 1000 people) 
  • Some people experience crampspain or dizziness when the IUD is put in or taken out. 

What should I do before and after my appointment?  

~ Abigael Towett

KYC Volunteer
Strathmore University

Published by konnectyouthconsortium

Konnect Youth Consortium (KYC) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Kericho County and Narok Counties, South Rift Valley province of Kenya. KYC implements HIV/AIDS Prevention, Sexual and Reproductive Health Services, peace building, environmental conservation and economic strengthening programs targeting the young people.

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