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Intrauterine Devices: Which is best for you?

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped device that is placed into your uterus. IUDs are a long term, low maintenance solution to birth control and can last from 3-10 years based on the type used. If you wish to become pregnant it can easily be removed by your doctor and you can conceive. The two types of IUDs are hormonal and non-hormonal (copper) and learning more about the similarities and differences between the two will help you decide which is best for you.

Similarities Between Hormonal & Non-Hormonal IUDs

Both are highly effective in preventing pregnancy

Hormonal IUDs are said to have an efficacy rate of 99.8% while non-hormonal IUDs have a 99.2% efficacy rate. This makes both safe and highly effective methods of contraception. No other method is almost 100% effective other than abstinence or sterilisation.

Both are long-term contraceptive methods:

Hormonal IUDs can last up to 5 years while non-hormonal IUDs may last up to 10 years, without complications. Someone who is not trying to get pregnant in the next few years or someone who may be in their 40s and finished with their reproductive years may find this method very useful.

Both are user-independent

Once you put in an IUD, that’s it. You do not have to think about taking a pill every day or booking an appointment for your next injection 3 months from now. If you are forgetful or simply cannot bother with the trouble then an IUD would be a perfect contraceptive method to try.

Both have very few side effects

As long as you change your IUD when it’s due and do checks now and then with your doctor to ensure it’s still in place, the side effects are very few for both types.

They are both reversible

IUDs are not permanent. If you change your mind, decide you want to have a baby or for any other reason that may come up, you can simply remove it. After your IUD has been removed by your Gynaecologist, your fertility will return immediately most of the time.

Neither protects you from STDs/STIs

If you do have an IUD you must continue to use condoms or other methods that protect you from STDs/ STIs. IUDs only prevent pregnancy.

Differences between Hormonal IUDs and Non-Hormonal IUDs

Hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs have more in common than they have differences. The main differences between the two lies in their mechanisms of action/ how they work and the material they are made from.

Hormonal IUDs, such as Mirena, use varying levels of the synthetic form of the hormone progesterone, progestin. This hormone is released directly into your reproductive system causing the mucus of the cervix to thicken and uterine walls to thin, thus preventing sperm from entering the uterus. This thinning of the uterine lining may also cause lighter period flows and a reduction in the severity of your period cramps: your period may even stop altogether, but this is normal. If you do suffer from heavy, painful periods your doctor might recommend Mirena as a form of treatment.

Some side effects of hormonal IUDs could include acne, headaches, breast tenderness, change in mood/ mood swings and pain in your abdomen/ pelvic area. These are fairly common reactions to hormone treatments.

On the other hand, the non-hormonal IUD, such as Copper T, uses the properties of copper to bathe the lining of your uterus creating an unfavourable environment for pregnancy to happen. Unlike the hormonal IUD, the copper IUD typically will not make your period any better because it does not contain any hormones. Some women however experience heavier and longer bleeding with more severe cramps with the Copper T. Overall, this is a good, non-hormonal treatment you may consider.

If you are considering an IUD, weigh the pros and cons with your Gynaecologist and find out which type is best for your needs.



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