Many women end up at the same place you’re at right now: weighing out your contraceptive options, trying to find the best form of birth control, and wondering if an IUD is right for you. We’ve all heard the myths and the horror stories, and we’ve also heard some high praise and recommendation for this T-shaped type of birth control. Gynecologist Dr. Carole Neuman is here to give you the facts that you need and the answers you’ve been looking for. Find out more, schedule your next appointment with Neuman GYN today.

What is an IUD?

Formally known as intrauterine devices, IUDs are tiny devices that are inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. They’re made of plastic, and are either wrapped in copper (which is a natural spermicide), or contain hormones to stop conception. Regardless of if you go with a copper or hormonal IUD, this form of birth control is highly effective — over 99 percent effective, to be precise.

How do I get an IUD?

To get an IUD, you’ll need to set up an appointment with a gynecologist. Sometimes, you can even make a same-day appointment to get your IUD inserted, as it’s a relatively quick, outpatient type of procedure.

Are IUDs expensive?

There’s a chance that your health insurance might cover the expense, which would mean you wouldn’t have to pay a thing. If you are paying for an IUD out of pocket, it will likely cost you a couple hundred dollars, anywhere between $300-$700, though this number is an estimate, and could be higher. At certain clinics and in certain situations, getting an IUD could cost upwards of $1,300.

That being said, while IUDs have a hefty price for upfront costs (assuming you’re paying for it on your own), they can last for a really long time — a copper IUD can last up to 12 years! — and have fewer side effects than other forms of birth control. Many women would argue it’s absolutely worth the cost, but ultimately that’s for each individual to decide.

How does the procedure work?

A nurse or gynecologist will take your medical history, then will use a speculum to observe your vagina and uterus. They might use a tool called a sound to measure your uterus, ensuring that they get the placement just right. Next, they’ll insert the IUD into your vagina, then up past your cervix and into your uterus. Every IUD has strings attached to it (so that when it’s eventually removed, it’s easy for the gynecologist to take it out), and these will be clipped with medical scissors. This is so they won’t get in the way, and also won’t be felt by any future sexual partners.

Does getting an IUD take a long time?

Much of the procedure depends on how you and your body respond to everything, but if all goes well, the actual procedure can be done in 5-10 minutes. In theory, all it really consists of is inserting the IUD into your uterus, which shouldn’t take too long.

The doctor or nurse will recommend you take your time putting your clothes on, standing up, and getting ready. As you start moving, you might feel faint, nauseous, or a bit lightheaded. This is not uncommon, and if you start feeling any of these symptoms, you should let the doctor know. Sometimes all it takes is a little juice and a little time to lay down before you’ll be ready to go. The resting period after the procedure can sometimes be longer than the actual procedure itself!

Is it painful?

This is one of the most common questions that everyone considering an IUD wants to know, but every woman responds differently to getting an IUD. For some women, there’s very little pain, if any at all. This might be particularly true if they get an IUD placed right after giving birth, or after having an abortion.

Most women do report some pain, but again, this all varies. Getting measured with a sound usually stimulates a contraction, which can actually be more painful than the actual IUD insertion for some. In other instances, the procedure itself might not be painful, but the cramps that come afterwards might be the worst part.

Overall, you should know that many women do report experiencing pain with the procedure, but most women who have an IUD say that it’s short-lived and still worth it. If you decide to get an IUD, know that coming in and expecting pain might actually make the experience more painful — when your body is relaxed, the procedure will likely go more smoothly.

How long does it take to recover?

Many women report having moderate to severe cramps for several hours after the procedure. By the next day, most feel completely back to normal. If you are still experiencing extreme pain or feel like something’s not quite right, it’s a good idea to contact your gynecologist to make sure everything is in place.

When you get an IUD, you probably will feel better if you have transportation set up — cramps can make it challenging to drive and get yourself home. Bring a friend or loved one with you to the gynecologist for your IUD insertion and have them drive you home, or take a Lyft to and from the appointment. You’ll likely not want to have any plans set up that day or night, and will need some time to rest and recover. But again, by the next day, there’s a good chance that you’ll be feeling back to normal.

How long do I need to wait to have sex?

Technically speaking, you could have sex right after getting an IUD (though you probably won’t be feeling up to it, and we can’t say we blame you). However it should be noted that if you’re trying to avoid getting pregnant, when you can have unprotected sex depends on the type of IUD you get. For copper IUDs, you’re protected immediately. Hormonal IUDs are immediately effective or not immediately effective, depending on where you’re at in your cycle. For this reason, doctors recommend waiting a week to have unprotected sex if you get a hormonal IUD.

Do IUDs protect against STDs?

No. Be sure to practice safe sexual habits, such as using a condom and getting tested for STDs regularly and/or when planning on having sex with a new partner.

What if I decide I want to get pregnant?

An IUD is one of the most convenient forms of birth control for many reasons, but this is especially true for anyone who’s ready to try getting pregnant. Simply schedule an appointment with your gynecologist, let them know you’re trying to get pregnant and want your IUD removed, and they’ll take care of it — the moment it’s removed, pregnancy is possible. As one important note, do not try removing your IUD on your own. Rely on medical professionals for a safe removal.

For as effective and great as IUDs can be, there are also risks associated with them. We’ll cover the risks in our next blog, and in the meantime, know that you can rely on the compassionate team at Neuman GYN for any and all birth control related questions. Make your health a top priority — make an appointment with our gynecologist Dr. Carole Neuman today.