Being a new parent has lots of challenges and distractions. If you’re worried about missing a pill or forgetting to renew a prescription, you might consider getting an intrauterine device (IUD).
An IUD is a small T-shaped device made of flexible plastic that’s placed in the uterus. This form of birth control is more than 99 percent effective.
Once the IUD is in place, there’s nothing else you need to do to prevent pregnancy for several years. This is pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it situation, though you do have to have it removed or replaced eventually.
Depending on the type you choose, an IUD can remain effective for up to 10 years. If you feel ready to have another baby sooner than that, it’s easily removed and your fertility goes back to normal.
Of course, no one type of birth control will work for everyone. That’s why there are so many choices out there. Read on to find out more about whether an IUD might be a good fit for you.
Yes! There are plenty of parents who choose to use an IUD after having a baby.
An IUD prevents pregnancy in a few ways:
- Hormonal IUDs contain a hormone called progestin. Progestin prevents ovulation and thickens cervical mucus, making it difficult for the sperm and egg to meet up.
- Copper IUDs change how sperm acts, so they’re unable to swim properly to reach an egg and fertilize it. Are you now picturing a whole bunch of confused sperm bumping into each other? Exactly.
Often, an IUD can be inserted while you’re still in the hospital after giving birth. Of course, if that feels like too much action down there, you could decide to get it at your 6-week postpartum visit or any later date.
If you’re not totally exhausted in those early weeks and you have energy for sex before having an IUD placed, you may want to consider an alternate method of birth control.
In people who have given birth, IUD insertion tends to be easier than in those who have never given birth.
A doctor or nurse will use a speculum to open your vagina, just like when you get a pap done. A special insertion tool is used to place the IUD in your uterus.
It’s a quick procedure that can be done right in your doctor’s office and is usually over within 5 minutes. Just like with a pap, those minutes may feel on the long side, depending on your comfort level.
You will likely feel some discomfort or cramping during the procedure. You may want to take pain medication before your appointment and for a while afterwards. If you’re nervous about discomfort, talk to your doctor about what they recommend to make the procedure easier.
It’s normal to have some cramping or lower back pain for a few days or weeks following insertion. Heating pads are your friend!
There are plastic strings attached to the bottom of an IUD, which help to verify that the IUD is in the right position. As part of the procedure, the strings will be trimmed to the right length. The strings need to be long enough for removal but short enough so they’re not in the way.
And you don’t need to worry about your partner feeling the strings during sex. It’s OK…we all wonder about these things.
You can feel for the strings yourself to check that your IUD is still in the right position. It’s totally normal to want to check constantly when you first get one.
Yes! An IUD is a safe and effective method of birth control that’s completely fine to use while breastfeeding. It won’t affect your milk supply.
An IUD is also wonderfully low maintenance. You have enough to think about with your new baby and learning how to breastfeed (plus all that laundry). It’s nice to not worry about your birth control.
Pretty much every form of birth control has some side effects. Here are some of the more common side effects of IUDs:
- You will likely have some cramping and discomfort during IUD placement. These symptoms may continue for a few days or weeks after your IUD is inserted.
- If you’ve tried other hormonal methods like the pill, patch, or ring, you may be familiar with side effects like mood changes, sore breasts, and headaches. Hormonal IUDs can cause similar side effects, but the good news is those side effects usually go away after a few months of use.
- Some hormonal IUD users may get ovarian cysts. It sounds alarming, but they’re not typically dangerous and usually go away on their own.
- Copper IUDs can cause heavier bleeding or spotting in between periods for a few months. Hormonal IUDs actually tend to lighten menstrual bleeding and cramping.
Some side effects occur less often, thank goodness! You can always talk to your doctor if you’re concerned, and they can help you weigh the risk of side effects against the benefits of birth control.
In some cases, the uterus will push the IUD out (yikes!). This is most likely to occur in the first few months of use. It’s slightly more likely to happen in someone who’s recently given birth.
In very rare cases (
Most doctors will follow up 4 to 6 weeks after insertion to make sure the IUD is still in the right place. Regularly checking the position of your IUD strings will also help you to notice if something feels different. The position of the strings is usually what gives it away that something isn’t quite right.
If you have a genital infection when the IUD is placed, the infection could easily spread to your uterus. Many doctors will screen for STIs prior to inserting an IUD to prevent this.
In the United States, there are currently five brands of IUDs available:
- Mirena and Kyleena. These are both hormonal IUDs that can be used for up to 5 years.
- Liletta. This hormonal IUD was recently approved for up to 6 years (previously 5 years).
- Skyla. This hormonal IUD can be used for up to 3 years.
- Paragard. This is the only copper IUD currently available. It doesn’t contain any hormones, and it’s effective for up to 10 years. Paragard is also effective emergency contraception if it’s placed within 5 days of having sex without birth control.
All of these IUDs are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.
Any of them can be removed early if you want to try for pregnancy.
IUDs are used by many parents because they’re an easy and highly effective way to prevent pregnancy.
Your new tiny human is going to give you lots to worry about. If you go ahead with an IUD, you won’t need to worry about birth control for literally years.
Like all birth control methods, there are pros and cons to using an IUD. You may want to explore other types to make sure you’re making the best choice to meet your needs.
If you decide that an IUD is right for you, you can talk with your doctor about your plans even before having your baby. An IUD can be started shortly after giving birth or anytime after.