Loop Contraceptives: Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about intrauterine devices
This article was originally published in 2019 and has since been updated.
You’ve weighed your options and decided you’d like to put off pregnancy for a while. After some research, you decide on a long acting contraceptive. The intrauterine device (IUD), also known as ‘loop contraceptives’ – is a good option for you. Here are some frequently asked questions about the IUD to help you in your decision.
What is the IUD?
An IUD is a small, T-shaped plastic device which is inserted into the womb, and it acts to prevent pregnancy by increasing the thickness of mucus produced by the cervix, which makes it harder for sperm to fertilise the egg. The copper IUD is toxic to sperm as it makes the uterus and fallopian tubes produce fluid that kills sperm It may also be used to prevent heavy periods.
What types of IUDs are there?
There are two types of intrauterine devices: hormonal IUDs and copper IUDs. The hormonal IUD, such as Mirena or Skyla, releases levonorgestrel, which is a form of the hormone progestin. There are two hormonal IUDs – one that works for five years, and one that works for three years.
The copper IUD (such as Paragard) is the most commonly used IUD. Copper wire is wound around the stem of the T-shaped IUD, and this works to prevent pregnancy. The copper IUD can stay in place for up to 10 years and is a highly effective form of contraception.
Am I a good candidate for the IUD or loop contraceptives?
The IUD is right for you if:
- You want an effective, long-acting method of birth control that requires little effort and is easily reversible.
- You can’t or don’t want to use birth control pills or other hormonal birth control methods.
- You are breastfeeding.
- Require emergency contraception.The copper IUD is recommended for emergency contraception if you have had unprotected sex in the past few days and need to avoid pregnancy, and you plan to continue using the IUD for birth control. As a short-term form of emergency contraception, the copper IUD is more expensive than emergency contraception with hormone pills.
How effective is the IUD ?
The IUD is a highly effective method of contraception. When using the hormonal IUD, roughly 2 out of 1000 women become pregnant in the first year. When using the copper IUD or loop contraceptives, about 6 out of 1000 women become pregnant in the first year.
Most pregnancies that occur with IUD use happen because the IUD is expelled from the uterus unnoticed. Doctors advise that every month you lay on your back or squat to check if the IUD string is still in place and has not moved.
What are the advantages of using the IUD?
- Cost-effectiveness over time
- Ease of use- no need for constant visits to the doctor
- Lower risk of ectopic pregnancy
- It is reversable
- Hormonal IUDs can cut down on cramps and PMS, and they usually make your periods much lighter.
What are the loop contraceptives side effects?
- Pain when the IUD is put in,
- Cramping or back aches for a few days after
- Spotting between periods
- Irregular periods
At Marie Stopes, our nurses are trained to help you make the right contraceptive choice for your lifestyle and your body. Visit your nearest branch for advice on long and short-term contraceptives, and to find the ideal method at a price that suits your budget.
Source: Marie Stopes South Africa (Safe Abortion and Post Abortion Family Planning)
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