Skip to main content

Looking for a new, effective birth control option? An IUD could be the answer.

IUDs are long-term, reversible and one of the most effective birth control methods on the market. There’s no pill to take every day and no prescription to fill. It’s contraception made easy. Find out if an IUD might be right for you.

What is an IUD?

“An IUD or intrauterine device is a small, T-shaped device that’s placed into your uterus to help prevent pregnancy,” says Dr. Richard Greco JR, OB-GYN at Geisinger Saint Luke’s Women’s Health in Orwigsburg.

Know your options

Each IUD works differently to prevent sperm from reaching an egg. Depending on the type, they last anywhere from three to 10 years. They’re over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. And if you are planning to get pregnant, you can try to conceive as soon as your IUD gets removed. Two types of IUDs are available — hormonal and non-hormonal.

Hormonal IUDs deliver a continual dose of the hormone progestin. This thickens cervical mucus and thins the uterine lining to prevent pregnancy. Like the combination birth control pill, some IUDs prevent ovulation. “Hormonal IUDs can also reduce menstrual flow,” Dr. Greco says.

You can choose from four brands:

  • Skyla®. Lasts up to 3 years.
  • Kyleena®. Lasts up to 5 years.
  • LILETTA®. Lasts up to 6 years.
  • Mirena®. Lasts up to 7 years. It can be used to treat heavy periods.

If you’re looking for a non-hormonal IUD option, consider Paragard®. It prevents pregnancy for up to 10 years. This device has a copper coil wrapped around the base that emits copper ions. Those ions irritate sperm, preventing them from reaching an egg. Paragard may make your period heavier and worsen menstrual cramps.

“Paragard is a good option for someone who doesn’t want or doesn’t do well with hormones,” Dr. Greco says.

What’s the insertion process like?

Before your appointment, eat a small snack and drink some water. This can help you avoid dizziness or nausea during insertion. When you arrive, you’ll lie on a table — just like you would for a Pap smear or your annual OB-GYN wellness exam.

Your doctor will use a speculum, also like when you get a Pap smear. They’ll check the position and size of your uterus and clean your cervix. Then they’ll fold down the arms of your IUD and place it inside a tube. Using the tube, they’ll gently guide your IUD into place inside your uterus.

The IUD has strings, and the doctor will trim any that are outside your vagina after the IUD is in place.

If you feel some cramping or discomfort after the procedure, Tylenol® or Ibuprofen can help.

To have your IUD removed, make an appointment with your provider. Similar to the insertion process, you’ll lie on a table. Your doctor will grasp the strings and gently pull to remove the IUD.

“The removal process only takes a few minutes,” Dr. Greco says.

Considering an IUD? Talk to your OB-GYN

If you’re interested in getting an IUD, your healthcare provider can help you decide if one is right for you.

They can also help you understand the pros and cons of IUDs. They’ll explain any potential side effects. And they’ll answer any questions you might have.

Next steps:

Meet Richard Greco JR, DO
In a relationship rut? Try these things to keep the spark alive
Fact or fiction: Your menstrual cycle can sync up with other women’s