One-and-done birth control: The IUD

Get-it-and-forget-it birth control is just one step away

Long-lasting birth control in one step? It sounds too good to be true, but millions of women across the United States use IUDs for safe and effective birth control.

The IUD (or intrauterine device) can last for up to 10 years depending on the type and doesn’t require any extra work on your part. Plus, if your baby plans change, you can have it removed and your fertility will return quickly.

Think an IUD might be right for you? Our OB-GYNs and certified nurse midwives are here to help. They’re experts in women’s health and are dedicated to promoting your overall well-being and reproductive health.

The best part? You don’t need to head to the clinic just yet. Video visits bring your OB-GYN or midwife to you.

Never had an IUD before? Here’s how it works.

An IUD is a small, T-shaped device that’s placed in your uterus by a doctor to prevent pregnancy. IUDs come in two versions, hormonal (plastic) and non-hormonal (also known as the copper IUD).

  • Hormonal – The hormonal IUD is made of plastic and coated in the hormone progestin, which prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg. It also thins the uterine lining and thickens the layer of mucus over the cervix to help block sperm from entering in the first place. For some people, the hormonal IUD also stops ovulation (the release of an egg during a woman’s cycle), further preventing fertilization. Typically, this type of IUD works for 3-5 years.
  • Non-hormonal – The non-hormonal version is also made of plastic but has a thin copper wire wrapped around it. The copper it releases has the same effect as progestin, preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg.

The copper also affects the lining of the uterus, making it harder for a fertilized egg to implant. The copper IUD, which can work for up to 10 years, is a good choice for women who experience side effects like headaches from hormonal birth control.

What are the advantages of choosing an IUD?

Besides pregnancy prevention, the IUD has a lot of other benefits. Here are some of the reasons women like having an IUD:

  • Hormonal IUDs can:
    • Regulate your monthly cycle to make it more predictable, lighter or help you skip it altogether
    • Lessen or prevent period symptoms, such as PMS, menstrual cramps, menstrual migraines and heavy bleeding
    • Help prevent other conditions such as anemia, endometriosis, and endometrial and ovarian cancers
  • IUDs are more than 99% effective
  • Unlike birth control pills and other methods, there’s no potential for individual user error
  • It’s ultra-convenient

How is an IUD placed?

The IUD placement process typically takes between 5 and 10 minutes. Just like having a pap smear, you’ll lay down on an exam table and your doctor or midwife will use a speculum to carefully widen your vagina.

Your doctor will examine your cervix and uterus to make sure the two are aligned. Then, using special tools, they’ll fold down the two T-shaped arms of the IUD and place it into an applicator tube. They’ll use this tube to insert the IUD through your cervix and into your uterus, then they’ll remove the tube.

Similar to a tampon, there’s a string at the bottom of the IUD that hangs out of your cervix and into your vagina. A doctor can remove the IUD in the future by pulling the string.

What does it feel like to have an IUD put in?

While placing an IUD is a simple procedure, sometimes it can be uncomfortable. Some women experience more discomfort than others. Beforehand, your doctor or midwife may offer you medicine that can help open or numb your cervix. They might also suggest that you take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen before your appointment. This can help with any discomfort or cramping that may happen during or after placement.

Ask your doctor if you have questions or want to learn more about what to expect.

Ready for an IUD? Let’s talk.

Getting started with an IUD is simple. The first step is to make a video visit appointment with one of our OB-GYNs or midwives. They know everything there is to know about birth control, including the differences between methods and how they may affect you personally.

During your visit, your doctor or midwife will talk with you about your health history, lifestyle and goals. If you decide that an IUD is right for you, you’ll come in for an appointment so the device can be placed.