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Frequently Asked Questions About IUDs

Published on March 17, 2015 by Virginia Women's Center

What is an IUD?

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are considered to be long-acting reversible contraception methods because they can last for several years, but can be removed at any time if you decide you would like to become pregnant. IUDs are one of the most effective methods available for preventing pregnancy.

Holding an IUD birth control device in handWhat are the benefits of choosing an IUD for birth control?

  • Once an IUD is inserted, you do not have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy. If you wish to become pregnant, simply ask your health care provider to remove the IUD. It’s important to note that IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Condoms still need to be used if there is a risk of STDs/STIs.
  • IUDs are long-lasting forms of contraception and can remain in your uterus for several years.
  • IUDs can be used while you are breastfeeding.


What are the different types of IUDs?

There are two types of IUDs currently available: a hormonal IUD, which releases small amounts of progestin, or a copper IUD, which does not contain hormones.

Hormonal IUDs:

  • Mirena® releases small amounts of hormones locally into the uterus for up to five years.
  • Skyla™ releases small amounts of hormones locally into the uterus for up to three years.


Copper IUD:

  • ParaGard® is made of copper and is hormone-free. ParaGard® can be used for up to ten years.


How is an IUD inserted and is it painful?

If you and your health care provider decide that you are a good candidate for an IUD, he/she will insert the IUD into a slender plastic tube. This tube will be placed into your vagina, through your cervix and into your uterus. The tube is then removed, and the IUD is left in place. The IUD has a string, which will be trimmed so it extends a few inches past your cervix and into your vagina. The strings do not usually bother women or their partners.

The procedure to insert an IUD can cause mild to moderate cramping in some women. Your health care provider may recommend you take an over-the-counter pain relief medication before your appointment.


Will I have trouble getting pregnant once I have my IUD removed?

No, once the IUD is removed, your chance of becoming pregnant is the same as any other woman your age. It is generally recommended that you have one menstrual cycle before you try to get pregnant.


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