The intrauterine device (IUD) is the most effective form of birth control available. It’s also safe for women of all ages, and once it’s inserted, you don’t need to worry because you’re continuously protected for three to 10 years. Dr. Anna Le and the team at Annandale Ob-Gyn have years of experience inserting and removing IUDs. If you’re interested in learning more about IUDs, call one of their offices in Annandale or Alexandria, Virginia, or book an appointment online.

What is an IUD?

An IUD is a T-shaped device that’s made from flexible plastic and is small enough to fit inside your uterus. It’s inserted during a simple procedure in the doctor’s office. After it’s in place, your IUD continuously prevents pregnancy.

How effective is an IUD?

IUDs are just as effective as permanent sterilization, which means they’re nearly 100% effective. They’re reliably effective for two reasons: the way they work and because the human factor is removed.

Other types of birth control are less effective because women forget to take a pill, or they don’t use a condom or diaphragm every time they have sexual intercourse. As a result, those methods have a higher failure rate.

How long will your IUD last?

IUDs belong to a category of birth control called long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) because that’s exactly how they work — they’re long-lasting and completely reversible.

A copper IUD can stay in your uterus and continue to prevent pregnancy for 10 years. Hormone-containing IUDs must be replaced when their hormones run out, but some last three years, while others are effective for five years.

Your IUD is effective as soon as it’s in place. Even though they work for a long time, you can choose to have your IUD removed at any time, and you can become pregnant as soon as it’s removed.

How does an IUD prevent pregnancy?

There are several different brands of IUDs. Some contain the hormone progestin, and one is made with copper. Both hormonal and copper IUDs prevent sperm from traveling through the uterus and into the fallopian tube, so they can’t fertilize an egg.

Hormone-containing IUDs also thicken the mucus in your cervix, trapping sperm and stopping them from getting inside your uterus. Copper acts like a spermicide, inhibiting the sperm’s ability to move.

What should you expect during IUD insertion?

After measuring the length of your uterus and cervix, your doctor at Annandale Ob-Gyn & Primary Care places the IUD inside a long, narrow tube. The tube is inserted through your cervix and uterus, then your doctor releases the IUD and removes the tube.

Your IUD has a string attached to it that reaches just below your cervix where you can feel it. After the IUD is inserted, you only need to check for the string each month to be sure it’s in place.