Everything you need to know about an IUD as a form of birth control

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When it comes to long term methods, most people in Kenya only know about the implant which is inserted in the forearm and lasts for about 5 years. However, the IUD is becoming increasingly popular and if you are new to birth control or you want to change from the one you currently use, here is what you should know.

What is the IUD and how does it work?

The IUD which is short for Intra-Uterine Device is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy for between 5-10 years.

There are two types; the hormonal and non-hormonal IUD.

The hormonal IUD is only made of plastic and works by releasing a small dose of synthetic hormones that thicken the cervical mucus ensuring sperm doesn’t enter the uterus and/or make the uterine lining so thin such that implantation cannot occur.

The non-hormonal IUD has a copper coil wound around it. The miniscule dose of copper causes the uterus to create an environment that is toxic to sperm. It greatly limits their mobility therefore fertilisation cannot occur.

The copper IUD can also act as emergency contraception. It can prevent pregnancy if you get it within the first 5 days of unprotected sex and then continue to give you long term protection.

How effective is the IUD?

It is considered the best form because it is 99% effective. Once inserted, you forget about it and go on with your life. This makes it more fool proof than the everyday pill whose efficiency is reduced if you forget to swallow it. It also trumps the implant which works by releasing the synthetic hormone progestin that becomes less effective if you’re overweight.

How is it inserted?

If you decide to have the procedure done at Marie Stopes Kenya, the health professional will have you sign a consent form that shows that you have understood the risks that might be involved and that you agree to whatever measure that they’ll need to take should any complications arise.

You only sign the form after the doctor explains to you the methods available to you and walks you through the steps in the procedure.

You will then be instructed to pee. A full bladder will make the insertion uncomfortable.

In the procedure room, the doctor will sterilise the outer lips of your vagina using iodine. This is to prevent bacteria from the outside from entering your cervix during insertion.

Using a speculum, they will part your lips and then measure the length of your cervix. This will help them know how far up the IUD needs to go in order to reach your uterus.

After this, they will take a new and sterile IUD and insert it into your uterus. They will then trim the strings and tuck them at the opening of the cervix.
The procedure is non surgical and the whole process takes about 5-10 minutes.

Once the strings of the IUD have been trimmed and tucked, it’s less likely that the IUD will move so you don’t have to keep feeling with your fingers to ensure that it’s still in place. This used to be a common thing in the past and it led to a lot of women getting infections because it was unhygienic.

Is the insertion painful?

The level of pain may vary from mild pain to very uncomfortable. The pain is a lot like the cramps one gets on their period. Some women get dizzy or pass out but this shouldn’t be a deterrent because the cramping subsides after a short time.

Will my partner feel it during sex?

No. The IUD is inserted in the uterus and the strings are tucked below the cervix. Your partner shouldn’t feel it. In case they do, it means that the IUD has moved and is no longer effective and you should go to back to your doctor to re-insert it.

Who should get the IUD?

Anyone who is sexually active.

Some time ago, it was believed that the IUD should only be recommended for women who have already given birth. It was thought to increase the risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease which leads to infertility in women who haven’t given birth.

These concerns have since been put to rest and the IUD is safe for all women.

Who shouldn’t get the IUD?

Women who do not have access to medical care. The device should only be inserted or removed by a qualified medical professional.

Women who suspect that they might be pregnant should avoid getting the IUD until they verify that they aren’t.

What happens when it’s removed?

The copper IUD is non hormonal method so it does not alter the chemistry of your reproductive system. This means that your fertility returns to normal immediately. In theory, you can get pregnant the same day it’s removed if you’re ovulating.

You don’t have to wait 10 years for you to have it removed. You can go back to hospital any time within the 10 year period if you’re ready to have children and have it removed.

What are the benefits

It’s discreet, long lasting and the most effective form of birth control available.

What are the side effects?

The copper IUD may cause heavier periods and more painful cramps in some women. This tends to subside after 6 months. You can take medication such as Ponstan which contains mefenamic acid as the active ingredient and helps to reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. It can also make your flow lighter if it’s too heavy.

You may experience spotting and/or cramping in between periods but this also goes away after 6 months.

How much does it cost?

If you get your IUD inserted at Marie Stopes Kenya, the cost will range from Kshs 2500 – 3000 depending on the location of the clinic.

The clinic in town is considered a premium clinic so the services are more expensive than those outside CBD. The quality of the services is not compromised despite the variation in costs.

Marie Stopes doesn’t accept medical insurance. From what they told me, medical covers in Kenya don’t have provision for family planning methods.

The payment methods they accept are cash or Mpesa.

The IUD does not prevent you from contracting STIs and HIV so it’s a not a substitute for a condom.

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