Better Birth Control Choices: The IUD

Of the many different forms of birth control available, the intrauterine device (IUD) is one of the most effective, with a 99% success rate. An IUD can be in place for several years and be effective; but also can be easily removed without affecting your ability to get pregnant. 

The main way that IUDs act as a contraceptive is in how they disrupt the movement of sperm so that it cannot reach the egg. This can be accomplished in two ways: with hormones or without.  

Hormonal IUDs

This type of IUD utilizes levonorgestrel, which is a progestin that is similar to progesterone. The release of this progestin will work to prevent sperm from reaching the egg in several ways:

  1. Thickening the mucus of the cervix so that it forms a barrier that the sperm cannot travel through.
  2. Conversely, progestin also works to thin the lining of the uterus. In the rare event that sperm is able to pass through the thickened mucus of the cervix, the thin lining of the uterus caused by progestin will make it very difficult for a fertilized egg to implant (result in a pregnancy).
  3. Progestin can disrupt ovulation. If there is no ovulation, there is no egg released–and if there is no egg for sperm to fertilize, there cannot be a pregnancy

Of the five FDA-approved IUDs that are on the market for use in the U.S., four of them are hormonal. These IUDs have a polydimethylsiloxane sleeve containing levonorgestrel (the progestin hormone from above) on the stem. The amount of levonorgestrel released differs with each brand. Despite their differences in the amount of hormone in them, they all prevent pregnancy with the same efficacy.

  • Mirena, 20 mcg levonorgestrel released daily; effective for up to 7 years.
  • Liletta, 19.5 mcg levonorgestrel released daily; effective for up to 7 years.
  • Skyla, 14 mcg levonorgestrel released daily; effective for up to 3 years.
  • Kyleena, 17.5 levonorgestrel released daily; effective for up to 5 years.

Other side effects may include headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, depression, decreased libido, hair loss, and ovarian cysts

The Good 

The specific benefits of choosing a hormonal IUD are:

  • Regular periods. For some women, hormonal IUDs can be effective in regulating periods. The majority of women also experienced shorter and lighter periods, with some women reporting that their periods stopped completely
  • Effectiveness. Both types of IUDs are 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, but recent studies have shown that hormonal IUDs are marginally more effective than copper IUDs.
  • Alternative to estrogen. For individuals who cannot tolerate contraceptives that contain estrogen, the hormonal IUD is an excellent alternative. 

The Bad 

The hormonal IUDs will not be a good birth control option for women who experience:

  • Pelvic infections
  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Cancer of the reproductive system (cervix, uterus, endometrium, etc)

Non-hormonal IUD

The ParaGard is the IUD that has no hormones. Instead of Progestin, the metal copper is how the ParaGard acts as a contraceptive. 

Copper has an adverse and damaging effect on sperm. It even goes so far as to create an  immune response that halts the development of eggs that could be otherwise fertilized. 

  • ParaGard, effective for up to 10-12 years.

The Good

The copper IUD offers the following advantages:


  • Long-term contraceptive. The ParaGard can be left in place for about 10 years. This makes the copper IUD one of the most cost-efficient investments when it comes to contraceptives.


  • Does not have hormones. The lack of hormones make this an appealing choice for women who avoid hormonal contraceptives (due to sensitivities or intolerance, for example)


  • Immediately effective. The Paragard begins working as soon as it is placed in the uterus. For this reason, the copper IUD can be used for instances that call for emergency contraception. 

The Bad

The disadvantages of choosing a copper IUD (or Paragard) are:

  • Heavier periods. The copper IUD can cause some women to have heavier menstrual flow. Some women report that their periods return to a normal flow after a period of time, however.
  • Painful periods. There are also women who report an increase in cramping and discomfort during their periods with Paragard.
  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Cancer of the reproductive system (cervix, uterus, endometrium, etc)

Overall, intrauterine devices can be an excellent contraception choice for many women. .

We Care About Your Health!

At Women’s Healthcare Associates we have a goal to provide you with one of the best experiences in women’s care in the greater Amarillo area. Our professional Staff offers personal care that focuses on the health and well-being of our patients as individuals. Our Services include comprehensive healthcare specialized just for women, prenatal and pregnancy care, digital mammography, bone density screening, ultrasound, contraception, menopause and more. For more information about how our comprehensive women’s healthcare can help you, please give us a call at (806) 355-6330.


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