The most effective long-term birth control method that’s also reversible is the intrauterine device, or IUD. These have uses beyond simply family planning. Dr. Susanne Ramos and her team in Santa Barbara, California, can prescribe and fit the type of IUD that’s right for you. Call the office or book an appointment online.
IUDs are small, T-shaped devices made of flexible plastic that are placed in the uterus to prevent fertilization and implantation of an egg. If you decide on an IUD for birth control, Dr. Ramos can insert it right in her office, and it takes only a few minutes. The IUD has a string that trails out of your cervix, and helps you know that it’s in place. Later, if you want to become pregnant or change birth control methods, she can remove the IUD during a brief office visit.
There are two general types of IUDs: one that uses copper wrapped around it, while the other design uses slow-release hormones. Each works in a similar fashion, however, since both the copper and the hormones affect the way sperm move so they’re unable to make it to the egg.
A prime advantage of the IUD is that a single device provides protection against pregnancy for up to 10 years. Some brands have differing periods of effectiveness, but all have life spans measured in years.
Dr. Ramos prescribes Paragard® a copper-based IUD and Mirena® as a hormone-based IUD.
Paragard is the only hormone-free IUD on the market today, so if you’re looking for a contraceptive solution that doesn’t alter your body’s natural hormone balance, Paragard is your choice. The copper around the IUD releases slowly, causing the uterine fluid to become toxic to sperm and impeding their ability to move properly, which prevents fertilization of the egg. Paragard protects against pregnancy for up to 10 years.
Another advantage of Paragard’s copper system is that there’s no waiting period between IUD removal and attempting conception. Some hormone-based IUDs require a period of time to wait for contraceptive hormones to clear from your body.
The hormones in Mirena release locally in the uterus, having several effects that virtually eliminate your chances of getting pregnant. First, the mucus of the cervix thickens, which prevents sperm from entering your uterus. The hormones also inhibit the motion of sperm that do pass the cervix, preventing them from reaching and fertilizing your egg. Finally, the uterine lining becomes thinner, making it less susceptible to implantation of the egg.
Mirena is also approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of heavy periods. The hormones used in Mirena have no lingering effects, so you can begin attempts at conception the day your Mirena IUD comes out.