Different IUD options can include copper and hormonal options. How long they work for and potential side effects can vary.

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped device that a doctor inserts into your uterus.

Depending on the type that you get, the IUD can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years. IUDs can cost up to $1,300 upfront depending on your insurance, which is more than the cost of birth control pills. However, you won’t have to think about the IUD once it’s in place.

IUDs are either copper or hormonal. Here’s a look at hormonal and copper IUDs, how they work, and their potential side effects.

The brands of hormonal IUDs available are Liletta, Mirena, Kyleena, and Skyla.

Once placed in the uterus, this type of IUD slowly releases small amounts of the hormone progestin to stop sperm from reaching the egg. Similar to hormonal birth control pills, hormonal IUDs can also prevent the ovary from releasing an egg (ovulation). The hormones also thicken the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from swimming to the egg and thin the uterine lining to stop a fertilized egg from implanting.

In addition to preventing pregnancies, hormonal IUDs typically lighten your periods and reduce cramps. Mirena and Liletta may get rid of your periods entirely. But for the first 3–6 months after the IUD is inserted, your periods will likely be unpredictable.

The amount of time hormonal IUDs continue to prevent pregnancy can vary by brand:

Hormonal IUDs can cause side effects similar to those of birth control pills, including:

  • breast soreness
  • breast tenderness
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • mood changes
  • weight gain
  • acne

ParaGard is an IUD that’s wrapped in copper wire. Once it’s in place, it works for up to 10 years.

ParaGard can also be used as a form of emergency birth control after you’ve had sex without a condom or other barrier method. If you have the IUD inserted within 5 days after having sex or experiencing contraceptive failure, it’s 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.

You may experience heavier bleeding and more cramps during your periods when using ParaGard. Your periods should lighten after a few months of having the IUD.

Other side effects of ParaGard may include:

  • anemia
  • backaches
  • spotting between periods
  • vaginal discharge
  • pain during sex

The cost of an IUD can vary depending on your insurance. Some insurance companies may cover certain brands but not others.

According to Planned Parenthood, a reproductive healthcare and advocacy organization, the cost of an IUD can vary between $0–$1,300.

Both copper and hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by affecting sperm movement. They stop sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg.

The two types of IUD are almost equally effective. Fewer than 1 out of every 100 women using either the copper or hormonal IUD will get pregnant in any given year.

Read more: Mirena vs. ParaGard vs. Skyla: Choosing the Right IUD.

Although each type of IUD protects against pregnancy for a different amount of time, they can each be removed at any time. Removal is always an option if you decide you want to get pregnant or are unhappy with the side effects.

The main difference between the two types of IUDs is that one type releases hormones and the other does not. In addition to blocking sperm from reaching the egg, hormonal IUDs thicken cervical mucus, thin the uterine lining, and prevent ovulation.

Each type of IUD works for a different length of time and begins working at a different time.

Only ParaGard starts to work immediately after you have it inserted. It can take Mirena, Skyla, Kyleena, and Liletta a week to start working. You may need to use a backup birth control method during that time.

Hormonal IUDs typically make your periods lighter and are accompanied by fewer cramps. With the copper IUD, your periods may get temporarily heavier, and you might experience more cramps than usual.

The IUD is generally safe, but it isn’t right for everyone. Getting an IUD may not be safe or recommended if you:

  • recently had a sexually transmitted infection or have pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • have cervical, ovarian, or endometrial cancer
  • have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • have a medical issue with your uterus, such as fibroids, that can make the IUD hard to insert
  • have liver disease
  • are pregnant

ParaGard can increase your risk of PID.

Read more: IUDs and Infection: Know the Facts »

Because ParaGard contains copper, it’s important that people with a copper allergy avoid using this IUD. You may also need to avoid this birth control method if you have Wilson’s disease, a condition that causes copper to build up in your body.

A doctor will insert the IUD into your uterus through your vagina and cervix using an applicator. The whole process takes under 5 minutes, according to Planned Parenthood. During the procedure, you may experience cramping or dizziness.

The IUD has a string attached to it. This string helps you check to make sure the IUD is still in place. It also helps the doctor remove the IUD.

After the IUD is inserted, you may have temporary side effects such as:

  • menstrual-like cramps
  • a backache
  • heavier than typical periods
  • spotting between periods
  • irregular periods

More serious side effects are rare but can include:

  • PID
  • shifting of the IUD
  • expulsion of the IUD
  • perforation of the uterine wall
  • an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy

What are the different types of IUDs?

The different types of IUDs include the copper IUD ParaGard and the hormonal IUDs Skyla, Kyleena, Liletta, and Mirena.

Which type of IUD is best?

The type of IUD that is best for you can depend on your specific needs. Hormonal IUDs are slightly more effective than copper, though both types are at least 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. People with a sensitivity to copper may experience adverse side effects from a copper IUD. Hormonal IUDs can cause similar side effects to hormonal oral birth control, such as breast tenderness.

Is Mirena or Kyleena better?

Mirena and Kyleena are both forms of hormonal birth control that are more than 99% effective. Kyleena, at 1.18 inches is slightly smaller than Mirena, at 1.26 inches. According to the manufacturer, Mirena may be the most commonly prescribed IUD.

Before deciding on an IUD or any other birth control method, you can talk about the benefits and risks with a doctor. It’s important to consider the cost, convenience, and side effects when making your choice.

If you try this method and decide that it’s not for you, you can meet with a doctor to have your IUD removed. A doctor can help you figure out which method of birth control is best for you.