Exploring the World of Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): Types, Benefits, and Considerations

Chart comparing the different characteristics of Long Term Reversible Contraception

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) have gained popularity as a highly effective and long-lasting form of contraception. They offer a range of options to suit different needs and preferences, making them a versatile choice for many women. This article provides an overview of the various types of IUDs, their pros and cons, common side effects, length of efficacy, and a glimpse into a typical insertion experience.

Types of IUDs:

  1. Copper IUD (Non-Hormonal):
    • Pros: Highly effective, hormone-free, and can be used for up to 12 years.
    • Cons: May cause heavier periods and more cramping.
  2. Hormonal IUDs:
    • a. Levonorgestrel IUD (Skyla, Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta):
      • Pros: Highly effective, long-lasting (3-8 years), can reduce menstrual bleeding and cramps, lowest possible hormonal exposure.
      • Cons: Contains low dose hormones, may rarely have hormonal side effects (e.g., mood swings, breast tenderness).

Common Side Effects:

  • All IUDs: Cramping, spotting, and irregular bleeding during the first few months.
  • Copper IUDs: Heavier periods, more painful periods
  • Hormonal IUDs: Irregular spotting, very rarely: hormonal side effects (e.g., changes in mood, breast tenderness).

Length of Efficacy:

  • Copper IUD: Effective for up to 12 years.
  • Levonorgestrel IUDs: Effective for 3-8 years.

Typical Insertion Experience:

The process of getting an IUD inserted can vary slightly depending on the type, but here is a general outline:

  1. Preparation: Before the insertion, you will have a consultation with your healthcare provider to discuss your medical history, contraceptive needs, and the IUD type that suits you best.
  2. Insertion Day: On the day of the insertion, it’s advisable to take pain relievers beforehand to reduce discomfort. You will be asked to lie on an examination table with your feet in stirrups, similar to a pelvic exam.
  3. Cleaning and Examination: The healthcare provider will clean the cervix and may measure the depth of your uterus.
  4. Insertion: The IUD is inserted through the cervix into the uterus using a thin applicator tube. This process may cause some discomfort or cramping, but it is generally quick, taking only a few minutes.
  5. Confirmation: After insertion, the healthcare provider will trim the IUD strings to the appropriate length, leaving them just inside the cervix. They will also ensure the IUD is properly positioned in your uterus.
  6. Recovery: You may experience mild cramps and spotting for a few days after the insertion. Some women can return to their normal activities immediately, while others may need a short recovery period.


Intrauterine devices offer a wide range of contraceptive options, each with its own set of advantages and considerations. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best IUD type for your individual needs and to address any concerns or questions you may have. While the insertion process may cause some discomfort, many women find that the long-lasting and highly effective nature of IUDs makes them an attractive choice for birth control.


El Camino Women’s Medical Group offers the latest Minimally Invasive Solutions for gynecologic problems.   Drs. Amy TengErika Balassiano, Pooja Gupta, and Christina Lam, all members of AAGL (American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopy), are highly trained and experienced in the field of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery.   Dr. Erika Balassiano has also completed a Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Fellowship under the supervision of world-renowned Dr. Camran Nezhat.

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Chart comparing different types of Long Acting Reversible Birth Control
Chart comparing different types of Long Acting Reversible Birth Control
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