The IUD has become a widely popular method of birth control in recent years. While it is commonly selected by younger women due to convenience and reliability, it can also prove beneficial to women in perimenopause.
What Is An IUD?
An IUD is an intrauterine device that sits inside the uterus. This T-shaped plastic or copper device can effectively prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg because it serves as a barrier, and in some brands, it also releases localized hormones to further prevent pregnancy. This form of birth control can have numerous benefits including:
Convenience: Women (and men) do not have to remember to use birth control before intercourse. Women also do not have to take a pill daily and do not have to schedule frequent doctor visits for injections.
Reliability: When inserted and used correctly, an IUD has a pregnancy failure rate of <1%.
Longevity: IUDs can last between 5-10 years depending on the brand, which can be very beneficial if you are not planning on having children for a long time, if at all.
Cost-effective: Many insurance providers will cover some, or all, of the cost for the device and insertion. The cost for an IUD is upfront and therefore does not require that you budget regularly for birth control.
Multipurpose: While they were originally designed for contraceptive purposes, IUDs that release hormones can also relieve heavy periods, as well as symptoms of PMS and perimenopause.
As with anything, there can be disadvantages. Disadvantages of the IUD include:
No protection against STDs
Can be painful on insertion and for a few days thereafter
Spotting between periods
The copper IUD (Paraguard) can cause heavier periods and worsen cramps
Can cause rare complications including embedding in the uterus, infection, falling out of the uterus, and put you at risk for certain medical conditions
What brands are out there?
There are two different types of IUDs: Hormonal and copper IUDs. Hormonal IUDs release a form of progestin, a sex hormone that plays a role in regulating your cycle and maintaining pregnancy. Progestin is used in birth control because:
It thickens cervical mucous to prevent sperm from entering the uterus and,
It thins the uterine lining (endometrium) and suppresses ovulation
In the copper IUD, pregnancy is prevented because the copper coiling on the device creates an inflammatory effect that is toxic to both sperm and eggs.
Together with your doctor, you will determine what is best for you based on your reason for considering an IUD and your medical history. The following are the brands that are currently on the market in the United States:
Hormonal – Mirena, Kyleena, Skyla, and Liletta (Longevity is between 3-7 years and is based on the brand)
Copper – Paraguard (lasts up to 12 years)
Can an IUD help with crazy cycles?
Using a hormonal IUD to control perimenopause cycles can be very effective for some women. When IUDs are first placed, you may experience abnormal periods and spotting between periods for 3-6 months following insertion. After that time period, most women report a lighter or absent, period for the duration the IUD is in place. For women looking to bring more predictability to their cycle in perimenopause, the hormonal IUDs may restore order to your periods, or nix them altogether.
Can it help with cramps?
Yes! Women who suffer severe cramps can benefit tremendously from having a hormonal IUD. When the IUD is placed, it can cause initial cramping following insertion. However, cramps associated with your cycle can improve remarkably after the IUD has been placed.
What about PMS?
Research has not demonstrated that IUDs help with PMS. Indeed, the cause of PMS is still not well understood. Likely, there are many factors that contribute to PMS, including changes in sex hormones, as well as neurotransmitters.
If you are suffering from crazy, erratic periods during perimenopause, a hormonal IUD may be worth exploring. As you can also get pregnant during perimenopause, an IUD may be a multipurpose tool to improve your experience in perimenopause.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.