An intra-uterine device (IUD) is one of the most effective forms of birth control. Although these types of devices have been on and off the market for decades, there are only two brands of IUDs available in the U.S. today: ParaGard and Mirena. Both brands of IUDs are FDA-approved, extremely effective, and safe. They are an excellent choice of birth control for women who are in long-term monogamous relationships.

What Is It?

An IUD is a small t-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of IUDs: the ParaGard, which contains copper, and the Mirena, which releases the hormone progestin.

How Does It Work?

The two types of IUDs prevent pregnancy in different ways. The Mirena IUD releases the hormone progestin, which prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens the cervical mucus to ward off sperm. The ParaGard IUD releases copper, which essentially works as a spermicide that kills sperm as it passes through the cervix. The ParaGard IUD also affects the lining of the uterus, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant itself.

How Do I Use It?

An IUD is administered and inserted only by a healthcare professional. Make an appointment with your doctor to determine if the IUD is the best birth control option for you. Your healthcare provider will insert the IUD through the cervix into the uterus. The procedure usually takes less than 15 minutes and can be done with or without local anesthesia. The best time to get the IUD inserted is during your period, when the cervix is slightly open. The ParaGard IUD can stay in the uterus for up to 12 years, while the Mirena IUD is effective for five years.


Both types of IUDs are more than 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, making the IUD one of the most effective birth control methods available. In addition, the ParaGard IUD is also more than 99 percent effective as emergency contraceptive if inserted within five days after unprotected sex.


An IUD is an effective, long-lasting, and inexpensive form of birth control. After the initial costs of insertion (ranging from $500 to $1000), there are no more expenses for five to 12 years. The IUD is convenient, requiring no daily maintenance or preparation before sex. In addition, the IUD does not affect future fertility.


An IUD does not protect against sexually transmitted disease. While most women are happy with their IUD, some do experience side effects, particularly in the first six months following insertion. Some women experience pain, cramping, and backache after the IUD is inserted and irregular periods for up to six months following. The ParaGard IUD may also cause heavier bleeding and cramps during your period. In rare cases, the IUD can slip out of the uterus or push through the wall of the uterus. In both cases, you must see your healthcare provider to remove and reinsert the IUD. There is also the small risk of infection when using an IUD.