IUDs can sure help you avoid unwanted pregnancy, but have got their own downside too

Surely IUDs (intrauterine devices) can save you from an unwanted pregnancy, but are they really worth it? Read on to know more.
IUD for birth control
IUD has gained prominence as a birth control method. Image courtesy: Shutterstcok
Sonakshi Kohli Published: 12 Feb 2020, 17:36 pm IST
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Surely, sex is all fun and games until you’re struck by the fear of an unwanted pregnancy. 

From mechanical barriers like using condoms to resorting to hormonal birth control pills and emergency contraceptive tablets the morning after, to getting a pregnancy-preventing device inserted in the uterus, there’s nothing that a woman doesn’t try in order to keep that fear from becoming a reality.

Let’s keep the mechanical and oral forms of contraception aside for now and focus on the intrauterine devices (IUDs), which are basically of two types:

  • Copper IUD
    A small T-shaped device, which works by releasing copper ions into the cervix, creating too hostile an environment for the sperm to survive. Additionally, the cervix also begins to produce a thick mucus making it difficult for the poor sperm to make its way to the fallopian tube and fertilise the egg.

“Copper is supposed to be spermicidal and it also creates an inflammatory reaction in the cavity of the uterus, which prevents the sperm to reach the fallopian tube,” adds Mumbai-based obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr. Vaishali Joshi.

IUD for contraception
Spermicides are sperms’ biggest enemy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
  • Hormonal IUD
    These devices work by releasing small amounts of progestin (a hormone similar to the natural hormone progesterone) into the uterine lining. 

“This thickens the cervical mucus, thereby preventing sperms from entering the uterine cavity. They also prevent ovulation and thin down the lining of the uterus, thus preventing implantation and growth of a fertilised egg,” Dr. Joshi explains.

Now, all these devices may seem like the perfect solution to all your birth control woes considering that their effectiveness in avoiding an unwanted pregnancy is comparable to female sterilisation (an operation to permanently prevent pregnancy) according to a study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Plus, they can keep you safe against unwanted pregnancy for up to five years, you know. However, you’ve got to check out the downsides of getting an IUD inserted before you decide to get one:

1. Firstly, the insertion could be painful
This one’s a no-brainer. You’re going to get a T-shaped device inserted up your vagina, so, expecting it not to cause any discomfort and pain is like expecting Ranveer Singh to sit quietly.

2. And it can give you an infection
Unlike condoms, IUDs don’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections and diseases as per Dr. Joshi because obviously, there’s no barrier between you and your partner, quite literally in the case of IUDs.

IUD for contraception
Watch out for signs of vaginal infection. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Moreover, there could even be a slight chance of getting a pelvic infection due to negligence of proper hygiene by the doctor/nurse, who inserts the device into your uterus.

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3. Your periods can go haywire
While a copper IUD can literally turn you into a blood fountain on your period, a hormonal IUD can lead to the opposite effect of a missed period or scanty blood flow during your periods according to Dr. Joshi.

4. Your uterus might have to bear the brunt
Although the possibility is less, a wrongly inserted or a malpositioned IUD can puncture the wall of the uterus, which can also cause severe damage to the viscera (i.e. bowel, kidney) as per a study published in the journal Minerva Ginecologica.

5. You can’t set it and forget it
IUDs usually have strings at the end, which can be felt near the cervix upon their insertion. These strings are meant for easy removal of these devices when one’s planning a child or due to any other reason.

You’ve got to keep checking if these strings are in place because if the IUD gets displaced, you could get pregnant. In fact, the displacement can be extremely painful and needs immediate medical attention.

6. And if it fails…
Despite the high success rate of IUDs, if, God forbid, it gets displaced and simply fails to prevent pregnancy, it can make your case worse than you think.

“There is a risk of an ectopic (pregnancy outside the uterus) pregnancy if the IUD fails,” warns Dr. Joshi. And unfortunately, the most common solution to this problem is to terminate the pregnancy.

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