Basics

What is the IUD?

The IUD (short for “Intrauterine Device”) is a birth control method that helps prevent pregnancy. It is a small, T-shaped birth control device. It is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, which means it works better than most forms of birth control, including the pill, patch, and Depo shot. The IUD is inserted into the uterus by a doctor, which means it’s private, and there’s nothing to carry around or take everyday.

How does it work?
The IUD prevents pregnancy by preventing the sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg. Once the IUD is inserted, you don’t need to do anything for up to five to ten years. If you want to get it removed before then, just talk to a doctor.

How is it inserted?
An IUD is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. The procedure only takes a few minutes. You can get an IUD inserted at any time of the month, unless you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant.

How big is the IUD?
The IUD is approximately an inch long.
That’s about the size of a quarter.

What can you expect?
You may feel some cramping during and/or after the insertion. Many women only feel mild discomfort; some may also feel dizzy. The cramps and dizziness go away after resting or taking pain medication. You should plan to rest at home until any discomfort goes away.

What do you need to do?
Once the IUD is in, there’s not much else you need to do! You may notice short strings that will hang down into the vagina–although they will NOT hang outside your body like a tampon string. The strings are there to help with IUD removal. Your doctor will explain how to check your strings occasionally to make sure the IUD is in place.

Where can you get it?
You can make an appointment to get an IUD at a health center, family planning clinic, or private doctor’s office.

How much does it cost?
The cost of an IUD can range depending on the product type and your health insurance coverage. Health insurance may cover the cost of an IUD, and other low-cost options may also be available so call your doctor or insurance company first. If you do not have insurance, the out-of-pocket cost for the medical exam, insertion of the IUD and follow-up visits to your doctor can range from $175-$650. However, this pays for pregnancy protection for up to five or ten years.

What are the different types of IUDs?
There are two types of IUDs available–Mirena and ParaGard. Mirena contains a low dose of the hormone progestin and can last up to five years. ParaGard contains a small amount of copper, has no hormones, and can last up to ten years. Click here to learn more about the differences between the two types of IUDs.