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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Special Topics > Intrauterine Device

Intrauterine Device

Alternate Names : IUD

Overview & Description

An intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small device that is placed within the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Most IUDs are made of plastic and contain either copper or a hormone known as progestin. A healthcare provider inserts the IUD when the woman is having her menstrual period. Copper IUDs can be left in the uterus for up to 10 years before they need replacement.

What is the information for this topic?

There are two ways an IUD prevents pregnancy. First, it creates a hostile environment for the sperm to travel through on the way to fertilize the egg. The IUD also prevents the fertilized egg from attaching to the walls of the uterus. IUDs are 97.4 to 99.2% effective in preventing pregnancy.

What are the indications for an IUD?

The IUD is thought to be a good choice for a woman who:

  • cannot use hormonal birth control methods due to side effects
  • has given birth
  • has no history of sexually transmitted diseases, STDs, or pelvic infection
  • has one steady partner
  • What are contraindications to using an IUD?

    IUDs should not be used by women who have:

  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • current cervical, uterine, or tubal infection
  • a current known pregnancy
  • history of pelvic inflammatory disease, or widespread infection of the pelvic organs
  • past history of salpingitis, or inflammation of the fallopian tubes
  • suspected cancer of the female organs
  • Another birth control method, other than an IUD, should be used by women who:

  • anticipate multiple sexual partners
  • are younger than 25 years of age
  • bleed so heavily during menstruation that they have anemia, or a low red blood cell count
  • experience moderate or severe menstrual cramps
  • have a history of ectopic pregnancy, which means the egg implants outside the uterus
  • have a history of STDs
  • have anatomic abnormalities of the uterus
  • have been diagnosed with abnormal heart valves
  • have experienced problems with previous IUD use
  • What are the risks of an IUD?

    A woman who uses an IUD may experience:

  • ectopic pregnancy
  • increased risk of infertility in the future
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • perforation of the uterus during insertion of the IUD
  • salpingitis
  • septic abortion, if the IUD is not removed after a pregnancy is diagnosed
  • spontaneous ejection of the IUD
  • unplanned pregnancy


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    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Sandy Keefe, RN, MSN
    Date Reviewed: 05/30/01

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