An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Once an IUD is in place it releases either copper or a synthetic version of the female hormone, levonorgestrel, into the female reproductive tract. Although both devices are formed in plastic, the copper IUD continuously releases copper into the uterus via a copper coil which causes an inflammatory reaction that is toxic to sperm. The hormonal intrauterine device instead releases levonorgestrel which acts to thicken the cervical mucus and prevent sperm from fertilizing eggs. IUDs are an extremely effective long term birth control, lasting between 3 and 10 years.
REMOVING YOUR IUD
IUDs are usually removed when a woman decides she wants to conceive or when the limited lifespan of the IUD has expired. Your doctor may recommend removing your IUD if your blood pressure increases or you develop a pelvic infection or have endometritis, endometrial or cervical cancer. After your IUD is removed, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or other treatments.
Although removing an IUD is relatively quick and simple, it should only be done by a qualified healthcare professional. Copper-based IUDs must be removed after 10 years and hormonal-based IUDs after 3-5 years, depending on the brand. Your IUD can be removed or replaced during the same office visit if there are no complications or infections.
Usually there are few risks or complications when removing an IUD however, in rare cases, your doctor may be unable to locate the IUD strings (possibly because the strings were cut too short). If this happens, your doctor will use ultrasound to find the strings or use a cytobrush or an IUD hook to remove the IUD from the uterus. If the IUD has migrated through the uterine wall, hysteroscopic surgery may be necessary to remove the device.
Female fertility will return to normal as soon as the IUD is removed. Although it is safe to have sexual intercourse in the days before or after the IUD removal, it is important to note that sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days after intercourse. To avoid pregnancy, you should refrain from having sexual intercourse for at least 7 days before the removal. Also, even after switching to oral contraceptives, it is recommended that you use another form of protection for at least 7 days in order to give the oral contraceptive time to take effect.