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IUD, Vaginal Ring

IUD, Vaginal ring


An IUD is an intra-uterine device that is used for contraception. It is a flexible,T-shaped plastic structure  with a string attached to end needs to be inserted into the uterus by a medical health professional.It is necessary to check whether the IUD is in place by feeling for its string, especially in the first few months when there are chances of expulsion.

One of its most significant benefits is that it can last for 3-12 years depending on the type. It is also considered to be one of the most effective contraceptive methods available and can lower the risk of pregnancy to one in hundred. An IUD is reversible and on its removal, a woman regains her fertility and can get pregnant immediately.

Types of IUDs

  1. Copper IUDs: are a long lasting (10-12 years) and effective. This makes it a very popular choice among women. Copper wire covers stem of the IUD, which fits into the uterus. A Copper IUD acts as birth control by preventing fertilization of the egg by sperm. It does so in the following manner. Copper ions are able to disrupt cell membranes and inhibit enzymes. They leach from the IUD into the uterus where they mix with cervical mucus and uterine fluids. They therefore act as spermicides when the ions come in contact with sperm via these fluids. In the rare event that a sperm fertilizes an egg, implantation is prevented because of the hostile uterine environment created by copper. A copper IUD can also be used to prevent pregnancy if used within 5 days of having unprotected sex.
  2. Hormonal IUDs: release hormones such as levonorgestrel, a form of progestin into the uterus at a slow rate. This contributes to thickening of the cervical mucus, which prevents sperm from entering the uterus and fertilizing with the egg. It also keeps the endometrium or uterus lining from growing thick, making it harder for implantation of fertilized egg. Due to this, hormonal IUDs also prevent heavy menstrual bleeding. They usually last for 3 to 5 years.

While rare and at times only temporary, there are certain disadvantages of IUDs. These include:

  1. Insertion of an IUD has to be done only by a doctor and regular check ups are required to ensure that it is in place and hasn’t moved.
  2. Mild to moderate pain, back aches, spotting and irregular menstrual flow may be experienced in the first few months after insertion.
  3. Some women may develop infections after IUD insertion, which may affect their ability to get pregnant if not treated in time.
  4. If an IUD is in place while a woman is pregnant, there are increased chances of ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and premature labor.



Vaginal ring

A vaginal ring is used for birth control. It is a small, flexible and transparent plastic ring that fits into the vagina. It releases hormones estrogen and progestin, which prevent ovulation, thin the endometrium and thicken the cervical mucus making it harder for sperm to make contact with the egg. A vaginal ring needs to be left in the vagina for 3 weeks and taken off for the remaining week. If used correctly, it has been found to be more than 99% effective in women. It is completely reversible and a woman will be able to become pregnant as soon as she stops using it. Besides birth control there are many health benefits from using a vaginal ring. For instance, it prevents heavy and irregular menstrual blood flow and cramps and decreases risk of ectopic pregnancy and endometrial and ovarian cancers. It also protects against growth of cysts in the ovaries and breasts.

Vaginal rings are extremely safe but they have been associated with certain side effects. These include:

  1. Women who use vaginal rings have a slightly greater chance of stroke, heart attack and blood clots.
  2. Rarely may it also be a case that a female may develop gall stones, jaundice, high blood pressure and liver tumors.
  3. During the first few months of using the ring, It may cause temporary side effects such as headaches, vaginal discharge, nausea and changes in mood.
  4. Spotting and/or bleeding from the vagina may also be seen.
  5. Certain medications such as rifampin (used to treat tuberculosis) may affect its effectiveness. 

It is important to remember however than IUDs and vaginal rings are contraceptive devices and cannot protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is therefore necessary to take precautions against STIs by engaging in safe-sex practices. These may include condom use, decreasing number of sexual partners and monogamy.

Both IUDs and vaginal rings may also not be appropriate for certain individuals such as those with pelvic infections, certain allergies and cancers or STIs.

IUDs and vaginal rings are two of the most effective and convenient choices for birth control amongst women. They also do not interfere with the ability to lead a healthy and enjoyable sex life. In fact many women confess about getting more pleasure from sexual intercourse because they no longer worry about accidental pregnancies.