An Intrauterine Device (IUD) is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into a woman’s uterus. The device is either wrapped in copper or contains slow release hormones. The specific type of IUD placed for a patient depends on her individual needs and goals. The IUD prevents fertilization of an egg by damaging or killing sperm, as well as making the uterus inhospitable to fertilization by affecting the uterine lining. Once it is inserted, the woman should not feel the device. Depending on the type of IUD being used, it provides effective birth control for 3-10 years.
A doctor or nurse practitioner can insert the IUD during a normal office visit. Insertion only takes a few minutes. Like a normal pelvic exam, the patient will be in stirrups. However, IUDs are typically inserted during a woman’s period as the cervix will open more easily. The doctor will begin by measuring the uterus to make sure the device will fit. Then the doctor opens the cervix by placing a rod called a dilator. Once the cervix is open, the doctor inserts the IUD using a narrow plunger. Insertion can cause sensations similar to menstrual cramps which stop soon after insertion is complete. After insertion, it is advised that the patient avoids intercourse and maintain low impact physical activity for a few days. Follow upafterwards is one month after insertion to ensure proper placement. A woman does not need to have had a child for an IUD to be inserted.
IUD removal is a similar process to insertion. A woman visits her gynecologist who will locate the strings on the outside of the cervix and use forceps or clamps to slowly and gently remove the device. The doctor will pull the device out of the uterus at a specific angle to allow the flexible arms of the device to fold and pass easily. The device should never be removed by anyone except a licensed healthcare provider. The IUD may be removed by the provider at any point that the patient desires to discontinue its use.