How effective are IUDs at preventing pregnancy? 7 questions with April Rosalez, D.O.
By Kristy Bleizeffer Aug 30, 2016
An IUD, or Intrauterine Device, is a contraceptive that is in inserted into a woman’s uterus, typically during a short outpatient office visit.
They are becoming more popular with women for their convenience, longevity and reversibility. There are no birth-control pills to forget to take; depending on the type and other factors, IUDs can prevent pregnancies for between 3 to 10 years; and they are typically easily removed with a short office visit. (While insertion is typically a short procedure, you do need to get pre-approval from your insurance company.)
April Rosalez, D.O., now offers IUD insertion and removal at Mesa Primary Care. Below, she answers seven common questions about the contraceptive.
1. How to IUDs work?
There are currently two types of IUDs: hormonal and copper.
Hormonal IUDs, such as Mirena and Skyla, work by slowly releasing Levonorgestrel – a progestin hormone used in many birth controls – locally into the uterus. It then prevents pregnancy in what is believed to be three collaborative ways:
- Thickening the mucus to prevent sperm entering the uterus.
- Inhibiting sperm from reaching or fertilizing the egg.
- Lastly, thinning the lining of the uterus.
The copper IUD, known as Paragard, has a different mechanism. This produces an inflammatory reaction within the uterus that is toxic to sperm and prevents fertilization.
2. How effective are IUDs at preventing pregnancies?
IUDs are greater than 99 percent effective and can prevent pregnancies for up to 10 years, depending on a variety of factors. IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.
3. Who is a good candidate for an IUD?
As with most birth control, this is something that you and your healthcare provider will need to determine together. Don’t be afraid to start the conversation and ask questions.
4. What can I expect during the procedure?
There will be a pre-procedure visit to make sure that you are a good candidate for this type of birth control and to start the pre-approval process with your insurance company. Once this has been determined, we will walk through the procedure step by step.
The device itself is small, typically T-shaped and made of plastic or metal. It has strings for removal.
Generally speaking, you will take ibuprofen or a medication similar before the procedure to help with discomfort. Your provider will measure the size of the uterus, then insert the IUD through your cervical opening. The IUDs strings are then cut to a length you are able to check. Your provider will also give post-care instructions at that time.
5. Are there any side effects?
Side effects vary with each individual but can include: Abnormal bleeding patterns, lack of a period, increase in discharge, swelling of the genitalia, breast pain, benign ovarian cyst complications, abdominal/pelvic pain, headaches/migraines, back pain, acne and mood swings.
Less common side effects can include expulsion (your body kicks the IUD out), alopecia (hair loss), hirsutism (male pattern hair growth), nausea and pelvic inflammation/endometriosis.
6. Can I have it removed if I decide I want children or more children?
Yes, absolutely. That is what makes IUDs such a great option. They can be inserted and left in until you are ready to have children.
Most of the time, IUDs are easily removed by your healthcare provider by simply applying pressure to the strings and the IUD follows. It usually takes just a few minutes.
7. Does insurance cover this procedure?
Yes, many insurance companies cover IUDs. You will need to get pre-approval process before insertion.
Dr. April Rosalez is board certified in family medicine, and specializes in pediatrics. She sees patients of all ages at Mesa Primary Care. She trained at Wyoming Medical Center for two years and completed her residency at the University of Wyoming Family Medicine Residency in Casper.