Copper T intrauterine device (IUD) (ParaGard)

Sexual Health

Effectiveness: More than 99 percent effective (less than 1 pregnancy per 100 women each year).


What is it? The IUD is a small T-shaped plastic device, about 1 to 1½ inches, with a tiny copper wire wrapped around the stem and a string attached at the bottom. A health care provider inserts the device through the cervix into the uterus.

How does it work? The IUD slows or stops movement of the sperm and egg by changing cervical mucus, fallopian tubes and the uterine lining. It is effective for 12 years.

STD protection: No; you will still need to use condoms if you are concerned about STDs.

Benefits: It allows women to feel more spontaneous about having sex. You don't have to remember to use daily birth control or to interrupt foreplay to use birth control. ParaGard IUD doesn't affect your hormones or interact with medicines and may be used during breastfeeding. It lasts up to 12 years, and removal by your health care provider is quick and easy. You may be able to get pregnant quickly after its removal.

Disadvantages: You may experience spotting between periods for up to 6 months, and your periods may be heavier and your cramps worse. When your IUD is inserted, you may experience mild to moderate pain, cramping or backache for a few days. If you or your partner has other partners, your risk of uterine infection increases. Serious complications are rare, but always talk with your health care provider about risks and benefits.

Availability: Requires visits to your health care provider for insertion and removal.

Cost: $175 to $650; protection lasts up to 12 years.*

Notes: You should check monthly to feel for the IUD's string at your cervix. In rare instances, the IUD may slip out of place. You should not use a the ParaGard IUD if: you are allergic to copper or any component of the IUD or have Wilson's disease; you have acute pelvic inflammatory disease or are at high risk for it; you have inflammation of the cervix, which may be caused by certain sexually transmitted diseases; you are or may be pregnant; you have uterine cancer or cervical cancer that hasn't been treated; you have unexplained genital bleeding; or abnormalities of the uterus that distort your uterine cavity. Your health care provider also may determine that your uterus doesn't allow correct placement of an IUD, but this is rare. Though the initial cost of an IUD is relatively high, it may be cost effective over time.

* The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover with no co-pay any FDA-approved contraceptive method prescribed by your doctor, including barrier methods, hormonal methods, implanted methods, emergency contraception, female sterilization and patient education and counseling. These estimated costs apply to women who do not have insurance coverage or who work for a "religious employer," who may be exempt from providing contraceptive coverage. For details about what your insurance covers, contact your benefits coordinator or health insurance provider.

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