Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are one of the most effortless and reliable choices for reversible contraception. With failure rates equal to surgical sterilization, IUDs offer women worry-free birth control for years at a time. There are two different IUDs, one a copper device without hormones and the other using a small amount of progesterone, available on the market today, each with distinct side effects.
Changes in menstrual bleeding are one of the most common side effects of the IUD. If you opt for a copper IUD, you should expect longer and heavier periods. This side effect can be quite bothersome for some women, even causing anemia. The hormonal IUD, called Mirena, has the opposite effect for most women. Menstrual bleeding will become lighter, and you may stop having periods altogether. The Mirena IUD is even approved as a treatment for heavy periods.
Cramping and Discomfort
The presence of an IUD in your uterus may lead to more menstrual cramping and backaches. Cramping is quite common after insertion but typically resolves. Continued severe cramping is a side effect of the copper IUD. More significant pain can be a sign of a uterine perforation, expulsion of the IUD or a sign that the IUD has embedded in the wall of the uterus. Pain can also be a sign of infection. The presence of a foreign body in the uterus places you at higher risk of serious uterine infections, so care should be taken to seek medical treatment immediately. The Mirena IUD places women at a somewhat higher risk for painful ovarian cysts, and both types of IUD increase the very small risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Sharp and intense pain are common symptoms of both ectopic pregnancies and ovarian cysts.
Hormonal Side Effects
The copper IUD has no hormonal side effects, making it an ideal choice for women sensitive to hormones. While the dose of progesterone in the Mirena IUD is quite small, it may cause breast tenderness, mood swings, acne, high blood pressure and weight gain in a few women. These side effects may pass over time, and all are reversible if the IUD is removed. If you tolerate other hormonal contraceptives well, it is likely that the Mirena will have limited hormonal side effects.