Women's Clinic


An IUD is a small flexible plastic device that is inserted into the uterus. Most IUDs are T shaped and may contain copper or the hormone progesterone. The Paragard IUD is T shaped and wrapped with a fine copper wire. It does not contain progesterone. The Paragard IUD has been approved for 10 years of continuous use and may last longer, though it can be removed at any time. An IUD must be inserted and removed by a clinician.


There are many different theories about how IUDs work. Most likely it causes the body to produce a higher number of white blood cells which damage and destroy sperm and eggs. It may also interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg and accelerate the rhythmic contractions of the fallopian tubes. If the IUD contains progesterone, it also thickens cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus. An IUD does not prevent sexually transmitted infections and can make it easier for an infection to travel from the vagina into the uterus.


A clinician will insert the IUD into the uterus using a narrow applicator, usually when a woman is having her period. This procedure takes about 5 minutes and will be mildly uncomfortable. A one inch string attached to the IUD is left hanging into the vagina. This string must be checked monthly to make sure the IUD is still correctly placed. If there is any change in the length of string, whether shorter or longer, see a clinician immediately. After the IUD is inserted, it begins preventing pregnancy immediately. Fertility returns immediately after it is removed.


The failure rate for an IUD ranges from 0.1% to 2% depending upon the type of IUD and how it is used. The failure rate for the Paragard IUD is about 0.8%. This means that during the first year of use, 8 out of 1000 women who use a Paragard IUD will become pregnant.


Advantages specific to the Paragard IUD include:



Most complications regard movement of the IUD. The IUD may be expelled from the body with few symptoms or it may perforate (puncture) the uterus. This is why it is important to routinely check the string. The IUD also increases the risk of developing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) if exposed to a sexually transmitted infection. Allergy to the copper in a Paragard IUD is also a possible complication.


If any of the following signs develop, contact Women’s Clinic or go to an emergency room immediately:


Because of the risk of infection and damage to the uterus, it is suggested that certain women should not use an IUD. This includes those with multiple partners, a previous diagnosis of PID, a history of ectopic pregnancies, or have not given birth. Women with one or more of these factors should discuss them with the clinician to determine if an IUD is appropriate for them