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Vital Signs: The ABCs of IUDs

By Anna Kellaher

Reproductive health is an important aspect of a student’s well-being. When it comes to contraception, hormonal pills are the most common choice.  

According to the American College Health Association, 40 percent of female college students are on the pill. But the pill may not be the right choice for everyone and there are other methods to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

One of these methods is an intrauterine device, or an IUD. An IUD is a small, T-shaped piece of plastic that is placed inside of the uterus.

There are two types of IUDs — copper and hormonal. Copper IUDs do not contain hormones. They are wrapped in a small amount of copper that releases copper ions, a substance that is toxic to sperm.

ParaGard is the only FDA-approved copper IUD. Hormonal IUDs release progestin to prevent pregnancy. Progestin alters the ovulation process to stop eggs from leaving the ovaries. It also thickens the lining of the cervix so the lining can block and trap sperm.

The hormonal IUDs approved by the FDA are Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta and Skyla, according to Planned Parenthood.

IUDs provide long term protection against unwanted pregnancy. Copper IUDs can last as long as 12 years. Hormonal IUDs last between five to seven years.

If you decide to try to become pregnant or to switch to a different method of birth control, IUDs can be safely and quickly removed by a healthcare professional.

However, IUDs have potential side effects, which include pain when the IUD is inserted, cramping or backaches for a few days after insertion, irregular periods and heavier periods and menstrual cramps (copper IUD only).  

According to Planned Parenthood, the side effects normally go away in about three to six months.  Talk to your primary care provider or OBGYN about which method of birth control is right for you.


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