Everything You Need To Know About IUDs Before Getting One

I had my first serious boyfriend at age 17, and along with that came the assumption from my parents that I would become sexually active. My stepmom instantly gave me the number to her OB/GYN and told me to book an initial consultation. She also informed me that she had an IUD and that I should consider getting one, especially if I thought I was going to be having sex. I’ve now had it for nearly two years and I’ve always gotten the same questions from my friends and family members who are considering getting one, so here are all the answers:


What is an IUD?

First thing’s first -- what the hell is an IUD? ‘IUD’ is a simpler way of saying ‘intrauterine device,’ so yes, it is an actual physical object that sits inside your uterus. It’s a small, plastic, T-shaped item with a string attached at the bottom (much like a tampon) that is used for birth control purposes. There are different types of IUDs, some of which last three years and some last five, but you can get it removed at any time should you decide you no longer want it. After the three or five year mark, the IUD will expire and become defective, so it must be removed. But, you can get another one inserted pretty much instantly. Essentially the IUD blocks off sperm cells from getting to the eggs so they can’t be fertilized, therefore preventing pregnancy. Keep in mind that, like birth control, IUDs cannot protect against STDs, so be sure to use condoms along with it if that’s something you’re worried about.


What are the Side Effects of Getting an IUD?

Much like most other medicines/medical devices that you put in your body, the IUD has its side effects. Luckily, they’re not too extreme. First of all, I can tell you right off the bat that the best part of getting an IUD is that you literally forget it even exists. You won’t feel it, and unlike pills, shots, and patches, you don’t have to keep up with it regularly (with the exception of remembering to remove it at the end of the 3-5 years). However, this will change your periods and possibly your overall cycle. Some women don’t get periods when they have an IUD. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll have a much lighter flow, but the period itself will last several days, or possibly a week. It is also common for women to spot after the IUD is inserted, sometimes for up to six months (yes, six months, I know!) I spotted for four. It’s also common to get a lot more discharge after getting an IUD, so be sure to stock up on panty liners. Very few women experience weight gain--I’m talking less than 5%--but know that it is possible. Otherwise, the side effects of getting one are similar to that of a regular menstrual period (headaches, acne, nausea, etc.) shortly after getting it inserted, but they should go away fairly quickly. In terms of effectiveness, the IUD is over 99% effective, which is more than the leading birth control and certainly more than condoms. My OB/GYN told me when I asked about this, that if she could say 100% effective she would, but there are always rare cases.



What is the Process Like? (Does it Hurt, What are the Requirements, etc.)

Most OB/GYN’s won’t give IUDs to patients under the age of 16. However, if you are sexually active before that age, and you have parental consent, some doctors will make exceptions. You can’t get an IUD without consulting a doctor first. Doctors highly recommend getting the IUD inserted while on your period, because everything is already a little more open and lubricated “down there,” so it should be less painful. Luckily, cost shouldn’t be a problem, because it should be covered by your health insurance. In terms of actually getting the IUD inserted, the process is not quite as complicated as some people may think. You’ll go into the OB/GYN’s office and lay down on the table the same way you would for a normal check up. You will be fully awake and alert, so if you’re worried about pain you can take some Tylenol or iBuprofen before hand in order to build up some immunity to it. The process itself takes about 10-15 minutes, but feels even shorter. In all honesty, it’s not half as painful as you would expect. Remember when you got your ears pierced? It was scary, and there was a lot of anticipation, but really it was small, sharp and quick. The process of getting an IUD is similar; it’s uncomfortable, but bearable. You may feel a little crampy for the next day or two after, but it’s nothing a little over-the-counter pain killers can’t fix.



So, is it Worth it?

Whether or not the IUD is right for you is truly a decision that only you can make, but you can consult an OB/GYN or even your primary care physician if you have any questions or concerns. If you ask me, it’s just about the most underrated birth control out there. I love having an IUD because it doesn’t mess with my hormones, I don’t have to worry about taking a pill or getting a shot regularly, and as long as I know that my partner is clean, I don’t even have to worry about condoms. It’s not for everyone, but anyone else I know who’s gotten one doesn’t regret it, and like I said, if you change your mind, the doctor can take it out no problem. As for your partner, no, they won’t feel it inside of you because it’s all the way up in your uterus and the string sits mostly in your cervix, so it’s especially beneficial to opposite sex couples.


IUDs are great. There are several different models, and you can easily find the perfect one for you with the help of a good OB/GYN.