An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped plastic device that’s inserted into the uterus for birth control.
There are two types of IUDs:
- Hormonal IUDs release progestins and can treat some gynecological conditions in addition to functioning as birth control. They last for three to six years, depending on the type you get.
- Copper IUDs release copper and are approved for up to 10 years of use.
Before deciding to use an intrauterine device as a postnatal birth control option, there are a few things to know.
For many, the IUD is a great option for postpartum contraception. This birth control method is considered effective after pregnancy. During the first year of use, fewer than 1 in 100 people with an IUD become pregnant.
This contraceptive device is more effective than some other forms of contraception because it eliminates the opportunity for human error that exists with pills and condoms.
The hormonal IUD can cause spotting and irregular bleeding in the first three to six months of use. Other side effects include headaches, nausea, depression, and breast tenderness.
The copper IUD can increase menstrual pain and bleeding or cause bleeding between periods, usually in the first few months of use.
IUDs provide continuous protection for 3 to 10 years, depending on the type. Once it’s inserted, all you have to do is make a note of the date it was inserted and when it should be removed. Then you can go about your postpartum sexual life knowing that you are protected. If you decide to get pregnant again, schedule an appointment to have the IUD removed.
Timing is key when using an IUD for postpartum contraception. When you have it inserted can affect the likelihood of your body expelling it. Consult your health care provider to determine if your body is ready for an IUD.
Some health care providers advise inserting the IUD right after delivery. Others might advise that you come back six weeks postpartum for insertion of the IUD.
Ideally, an IUD should either be inserted within 10 minutes of placental delivery right after birth or six weeks postpartum. After cesarean delivery, the technique and timing are similar.
Health care providers don’t advise inserting an IUD between the time of delivery and six weeks postpartum to give time for healing and minimize the chances of IUD expulsion.
The chances of expelling an IUD are high if it was inserted immediately after birth. That’s why health care providers often recommend waiting until the sixth week after birth or longer.
Only a health care provider can remove an IUD. Don’t try to pull it out yourself — you could damage your uterus or vagina.
Just like with the insertion, you may feel slight pain or some cramps and light bleeding during removal.
Your health care provider might suggest that you take a pain reliever a few hours before you have it removed. Generally they recommend taking it an hour before the IUD is removed.
When an IUD is removed, your fertility is immediately restored. In other words, once the IUD leaves your body, it’s possible to get pregnant. If you don’t want to get pregnant, you might want to consider another birth control option after your IUD is removed.
If you want to get pregnant again after having an IUD inserted, your fertility will be restored as soon as it’s removed.
If you’re having difficulty getting pregnant even though you had your IUD removed a while ago, let your health care provider know so that they can check for a possible underlying reason.