Birth Control: IUD (Intrauterine Device)

Cross section of uterus and vagina showing IUD in place inside uterus.

The IUD (intrauterine device) is small, flexible, and T-shaped. It is placed in the uterus by a trained health care provider. The IUD is one of the most effective birth control methods. It is reversible, which means it can be removed at any time by a trained health care provider. New IUDs are safe and do not have the risks of older types of IUDs.

Pregnancy Rates

Talk to your health care provider about the effectiveness of this birth control method.

Types of IUDs

IUD insertion is done in the health care provider’s office.Two types of IUDs are available:

  • The copper IUD releases a small amount of copper into the uterus. The copper makes it harder for sperm to reach the egg. The device works for at least 10 years.

  • The progestin IUD releases a hormone called progestin. It causes changes in the uterus to help prevent pregnancy. The device works for at least 5 years. It may be recommended for women who have anemia or heavy and painful periods.

IUDs have thin strings that hang from the opening of the uterus into the vagina. These allow you to check that the IUD remains in place.

Things to Know About IUDs

  • Can be used by women who have never been pregnant or by women with a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or tubal pregnancy.

  • Won’t move from the uterus to any other part of the body.

  • Pose a slight risk of the device coming out of the vagina (expulsion).

  • May not work in women who have an abnormally-shaped uterus.

  • Copper IUD may cause heavier periods and cramping.

  • Progestin IUD may cause light periods or no periods at all (spotting is possible and normal during first 3 months).

Be sure your health care provider knows if you have:

  • A sexually transmitted infection (STI) or possible STI

  • Liver problems

  • Blood clots (for progestin IUD only)

  • Breast cancer or a history of breast cancer (progestin IUD only)