An intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of temporary birth control for women. It is inserted by a healthcare professional.
There are 2 types of IUDs:
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Both devices are shaped like a letter “T” with thin strings attached. When the device is removed, most women can become pregnant.
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:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems of both the procedure and of having an IUD, including:
Even with an IUD inserted, there is a chance that you can still get pregnant. If so, there is a possibility of an ectopic pregnancy. 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:
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 be positioned on an exam table and your feet will be placed into 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 thin strings will hang out of your cervix and into the far back of your vagina. The speculum will then be removed.
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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. 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:
Office on Women's Health
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Endometrial hyperplasia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116763/Endometrial-hyperplasia. Updated April 11, 2017. Accessed March 8, 2018.
Intrauterine device (IUD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115219/Intrauterine-device-IUD. Updated February 26, 2018. Accessed March 8, 2018.
IUD. Planned Parenthood website. Available at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/iud-4245.htm. Accessed March 8, 2018.
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 contraception. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;115(1):206-218. Reaffirmed August 2012.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG Last Updated: 4/30/2014