An IUD (or intrauterine device) is one of the most popular forms of contraceptive that is inserted and sits inside the uterus. They are highly effective in preventing pregnancy and are typically used as a long term form of birth control.
What are the main differences between the two types of IUDs?
There are two main types of IUD, one is hormonal and one is non hormonal but they both work by releasing substances into the female reproductive tract. Hormonal IUDs release synthetic hormones and non hormonal IUDs release tiny amounts of copper. Bodies react differently to both types of IUDs but both are just as effective for preventing pregnancy.
How do hormonal IUDs work and how do they affect your period?
Hormonal IUDs release a synthetic form of progesterone into the uterus to help prevent pregnancy in a few ways
- Thickening of the cervical mucus to make it difficult for sperm to swim and reach the egg
- Thinning of the endometrium so that the uterus doesn’t prepare to receive a fertilized egg
- Prevents ovulation so that the ovaries don’t release eggs as consistently
Even though everyone’s experiences with IUDs can vary, most women that use hormonal IUDs see a reduction in period symptoms. Typically, hormonal IUDs can reduce bleeding in heaviness and length. The current options on the market in this category last from 3-7 years depending on the level of hormones they contain.
How do copper IUDs work?
Copper IUDs have the same T shape that hormonal IUDs have but they have a lining of copper wrapped around the entire thing. Although they are inserted the same way, they work a little differently. Copper changes the way sperm cells move and prevent them from swimming to the egg. Unlike the hormonal IUD, a copper IUD does not prevent ovulation it just prevents the sperm from reaching the egg. In the unlikely event that fertilization does occur, the copper IUD prevents the egg from implanting in the endometrium.
Unlike the hormonal IUD, women who use the copper IUD may experience heavier bleeding and longer periods, especially for the first few months.
4 most common ways that IUDs affect your period
While everyone is different, there are some common side effects related to periods that most women experience. It’s important to note that it may take weeks or a few months for your body to fully adjust and most often these side effects resolve themselves.
- Irregular periods
- Heavier than usual periods
The following symptoms are not normal reactions so if you’re experiencing any of them it’s important to talk with your healthcare professional. A lot of women go through trial and error with finding the right contraceptive so it’s important to always listen to your body and monitor your reaction when you start a new form of contraceptive.
- Irregular or unusually heavy periods after the first six months of getting your IUD inserted
- Pain during sex
- Abdominal pain
- Pregnancy symptoms
- Missing period for six or more weeks
Is the IUD right for you?
There are a variety of pros and cons to the IUD to consider before trying it for yourself. If you’re looking for a long term contraceptive it can be a great option.
- Small enough you don’t feel it after it’s inserted
- It can be removed at any time by your health specialist if you decide you want to try to get pregnant
- 99% effective in preventing pregnancy
- Low maintenance
- Option with or without hormones
- It must be inserted by a medical professional
- Can sometimes have side effects like the ones listed above
- Doesn’t protect against STIs
- Sometimes it can slip out of place and need to be reinserted or repositioned by your doctor or nurse
If you have more questions about whether or not an IUD is right for you, talk with your healthcare provider about your specific needs and what form of contraception is right for you and your body.