An intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of temporary birth control for women. It is inserted by a doctor.
There are two types of IUDs: Hormone-releasing—Releases the hormone progestin. Can be left in the body for 5 years before it needs to be replaced.Copper—Releases copper ions. Can be left inside the body for 10 years.
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Both devices are shaped like a letter “T” with a tiny string attached. When the device is removed, most women can become pregnant again.
This procedure is done to prevent pregnancy. It does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. The hormone-releasing IUD may also have other benefits, such as treating: Heavy menstrual bleedingPelvic painEndometrial hyperplasia
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like: CrampingAbnormal bleeding and increased spotting for a few months
no menstrual period
Heavier menstrual periods (copper IUD)Pain when menstruatingIUD can slip out of the uterus or vaginaInfertilityPelvic infectionDamage to the uterus or other pelvic organs
Even with an IUD inserted, there is a chance that you can still get pregnant. If so, there is a possibility of an
. This happens when the fetus develops outside the uterus. Other possibilities include miscarriage, premature labor, or delivery.
An IUD is not for every woman. Certain things would make a woman a poor candidate for IUD insertion, such as: PregnancyVaginal bleeding of unknown causeDeformed uterusHistory of ectopic pregnancyHistory of pelvic infection after childbirth or after an abortion in the last three months
pelvic inflammatory disease
, unless there has been a normal pregnancy since then
Sexually transmitted disease or other infection in the pelvic areaIncreased risk of pelvic infectionsCervical
Liver disease or
Allergy to copper (copper IUD)Wilson’s disease
Discuss these risks with your doctor before the IUD insertion.
You will be asked about your medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include checking for pregnancy or infection.
You may want to ask someone to give you a ride home after the procedure.
Local anesthesia is used to keep you comfortable during the procedure.
This procedure is usually done in an office or clinic setting with no need for an overnight stay.
You will lie on an exam table and put your feet in foot holders. A speculum will be inserted into your vagina to allow access to the cervix. Your cervix and vagina will be cleansed with an antiseptic. Another instrument called a tenaculum will be used to grasp the cervix and keep the uterus in place during the procedure. The doctor will insert a special instrument to measure the depth of your uterus to make sure that it will fit the IUD.
The T-shaped IUD will be folded and inserted into a tube. The tube will be inserted into your uterus through the vagina. The tube will then be pulled back. The IUD will open into its T-shaped position inside your uterus. The tube and tenaculum will then be removed. The IUD's tiny strings will hang out of your cervix and into the far back of your vagina. The speculum will then be removed.
Insertion of IUD Into Uterus
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Actual insertion takes about 5 minutes.
You may feel cramping or mild discomfort while the IUD is being inserted. You may asked to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) such as ibuprofen an hour before the procedure.
You may be given medication to ease any discomfort. When you are ready, you will be able to leave.
Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. When you return home: Resume regular activities as soon as you feel comfortable.Check that the strings are present in the back of your vagina each month.
Copper IUDs are effective right away.
Hormone-releasing IUDs are not always effective right away. Talk to your doctor about alternate methods of birth control until the IUD takes effect.
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor: Notice change in the length of the stringsCannot feel the strings with your fingersFeel the "T" part of the IUD passing through your cervixThink you may be pregnantHeavy periods or periods that last longer than usualMissed, late, or unusually light periodYou or your partner have or are exposed to a sexually transmitted diseaseSevere cramps, pain, or tenderness in your abdomenPain or bleeding during sexUnexplained fever or chillsFlu-like symptoms, like muscle aches or tirednessUnusual discharge from the vagina or sores on your genitalsUnexplained vaginal bleedingSevere headaches
Endometrial hyperplasia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 26, 2013. Accessed March 18, 2014.
Intrauterine device (IUD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 17, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2014.
IUD. Planned Parenthood website. Available at:
http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/iud-4245.htm. Accessed March 18, 2014.
Johnson BA. Insertion and removal of intrauterine devices.
Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(1):95-102.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 110: Noncontraceptive uses of hormonal vontraception.
Obstet Gynecol. 2010;115(1):206-218. Reaffirmed August 2012.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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