All About the Intrauterine Device – IUD: Functioning, Advantages and Complications

What is this device? Aspects to take into account the IUD (intrauterine device).

Important aspects:

  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are a form of birth control that prevents the implantation of fertilized ovules in the uterus.
  • IUDs may contain hormones that help prevent the implantation process.
  • Other types of IUDs include copper.
  • A health professional in your office should insert the IUD.
  • The side effects of the IUD depend on the type of IUD.
  • IUDs that contain copper can increase menstrual bleeding.
  • Some IUDs can be left in place for up to 10 years.
  • IUDs can be removed at any time by a health professional.
  • IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

What is an IUD?

The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped device used as a contraceptive method designed for insertion into a woman’s uterus.

Having an IUD means that changes in the uterus make it challenging to fertilize and implant an egg. IUDs have also been called “intrauterine contraceptives.”

Some IUDs approved for use in the United States contain drugs released over time to facilitate the contraceptive effect. An IUD is a type of long-acting reversible contraceptive.

It has been shown that IUDs exceed 99% in preventing pregnancy. Although IUDs are highly effective, contraception, except abstinence, is not considered 100% effective.

How does it work?

It is not entirely understood how IUDs work. It is thought to prevent conception by causing a localized inflammation that begins about 24 hours after insertion.


The inflammatory reaction inside the uterus attracts white blood cells, which produce toxic or poisonous substances for sperm.

Progesterone-releasing IUDs also cause a subtle change in the uterus lining that prevents ovum implantation in the uterine wall. This type of IUD also disrupts the cervical mucus, which, in turn, inhibits the sperm from passing through the cervix.

What are the side effects?

The side effects of the IUD are mainly limited to the uterus and depend on the type of IUD that is inserted. The copper IUD can cause worsening menstrual cramps and heavier menstrual bleeding, although hormonal IUDs usually reduce menstrual flow.

Women with hormonal IUDs may have irregular periods and spots, particularly in the first three to six months.

It is also possible for the IUD to pass through (pierce) the uterine wall and enter the abdominal cavity, where it must be surgically recovered.

The perforation or trauma of the uterus by the IUD occurs in three to 1,000 insertions.

Does IUD cause pain?

An IUD does not cause pain. The insertion procedure is done in a doctor’s office and can cause a brief discomfort similar to menstrual cramps. An anesthetic may be injected into the cervix before the insertion procedure.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of possible complications?

Warning signs of possible complications of an IUD include:

  1. Abdominal pain.
  2. Intense bleeding
  3. Abnormal spots or bleeding.
  4. A malodorous vaginal discharge.

If a woman experiences any of these signs, she should contact a health professional.

What are the advantages? How effective is it?

The advantages of the IUD include the fact that it is very effective in preventing conception, is reversible, and begins to work almost immediately.

Once the IUD is removed, there is a rapid return to fertility. The levonorgestrel-releasing IUD (99% effective) is replaced every three to five years. The copper IUD is also 99% effective and only needs to be replaced every ten years.

Who can use an intrauterine device?

The majority of healthy women can use an IUD. They are not adapted for every woman, and some women should not use an IUD for contraception.

Before inserting an IUD, a woman must undergo a pregnancy test to ensure she is not pregnant and be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The following are reasons why a woman should not use an IUD:

  • Pelvic infection in progress, such as a recent STD.
  • Cancer of the uterine uterus.
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Abnormal or distorted uterine anatomy.
  • A woman allergic to copper or Wilson’s disease should not use the copper-containing IUD.

How is an intrauterine device inserted?

IUDs are only available by prescription and should be inserted correctly by a health professional. A pelvic exam is required to insert an IUD, similar to undergoing a Pap test.

The IUD is inserted into the uterus while the woman is not pregnant.

The IUD is a small device in the shape of a “T” with a monofilament tail inserted into the uterus by a health professional in your office environment.

When inserted into the uterus, the arms of the “T” fold down but then open to form the upper part of the “T.” The device rests inside the uterus with the base of the T just above The cervix, and the arms of the T extend horizontally through the uterus.

A short piece of the monofilament chain attached to the IUD extends through the cervix into the vagina. This chain ensures that the IUD is still in the uterus.

When does it start to work?

The IUD starts working to prevent pregnancy as soon as it is inserted. Still, it is believed that complete protection takes about seven days in some cases, depending on when the menstrual cycle is inserted.

If you have an IUD inserted within seven days of the end of your menstrual period, it should be effective immediately. At any other time of the menstrual cycle, you must use another method of birth control during the first week after insertion.

How long does an intrauterine device last?

The copper-containing IUD can be left in place for up to 10 years, and the hormonal IUD can remain for three or five years, depending on the type of IUD.