7 Things Women Need to Know About IUDs

by Allison Bush Editor

What is an IUD?

IUD stands for "intrauterine device." They are small, T-shaped devices made of flexible plastic and they're inserted by a health care provider into a woman's uterus to prevent pregnancy.

Are there different types of IUDs?

There are two different types of IUDs currently on the market: copper, hormone-free IUDs and hormonal IUDs. The ParaGard IUD is the only hormone-free IUD and is wrapped with copper, which is a natural sperm killer. It's effective for up to 12 years. The other available IUDs, Mirena and Skyla, release a small amount of the hormone progestin and are effective for five years and three years, respectively.

Do IUDs cause an abortion?

No, IUDs do not cause abortions - that is a myth. Multiple studies indicate that IUDs work by preventing sperm from reaching an egg. They prevent pregnancies, they don't end them.

Are IUDs covered by insurance?

Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance companies must cover all FDA-approved methods of birth control, including IUDs, with no out-of-pocket expense. However, insurance companies are only required to cover one type of each birth control method, which means not every kind of IUD may be included in your plan or available without a copay.

What are the risks of an IUD?

You may experience some side effects, including mild to moderate pain when the IUD is put in, cramping or backache for a few days, and spotting between periods in the first 3–6 months. With Mirena and Skyla, you may experience irregular periods in the first 3–6 months, and with ParaGard, you may have heavier periods and worse menstrual cramps. Other, more serious risks, include infection, or movement of the IUD.

Who is a good candidate for an IUD?

IUDs are great for women who are certain they don't want to get pregnant anytime in the near future. Hormonal IUDs are also good for women who wish to have lighter periods. You should not use an IUD if you have an STD, have had a pelvic infection in the last three months, cervical cancer, or if you think you might be pregnant.

How are IUDs removed?

Removing or replacing an IUD is usually a simple process performed by your health care provider. You should never try to remove an IUD yourself - this can result in serious injury. In rare cases, a surgical tool may be used to free the IUD.

Allison Bush
Meet Our Writer
Allison Bush

Allison Bush is a former HealthCentral editor who covered a wide range of health topics.