Q: Are IUDs a good option if I have not had a baby?
An intrauterine device (IUD), a long-acting reversible form of birth control, can be a great option for women who have not had children. There are two types of IUDs: hormonal and non-hormonal. Both types are very effective at preventing pregnancy and have low infection rates. Some women use the hormonal IUD to help with painful or heavy periods as it can improve cramping and decrease bleeding. Hormonal IUDs sometimes stop periods altogether, which many women find convenient. Non-hormonal IUDs are great for women who prefer to have a period every month or who are unable to use progesterone.
It is still important to use condoms with an IUD as they do not prevent sexually transmitted infections. A great benefit for teens or any woman who desires long-term reversible contraception is that once the IUD is placed it can remain in for five to 10 years (depending on the IUD type).
Pain with insertion can vary greatly: Some women hardly notice the placement while others experience severe cramping. I recommended taking 600 mg of ibuprofen and eating something prior to having an IUD placed. Ibuprofen can help with cramping. Food can help prevent women from feeling faint or nauseated. Typically, the worst cramping is over once the IUD is placed (it takes five minutes or less for the typical IUD insertion). Some residual and lighter cramping can occur over the next few days, so ibuprofen every six hours can be beneficial, as can a heating pad.
Fertility returns rapidly once the IUD is removed, with conception rates comparable to women who have not used a contraceptive device. IUDs are a simple, easy, and effective method for any woman, whether or not she has had children.
—Jasmin Whalen-Vu, CNM
Jasmin Whalen-Vu is a certified nurse midwife with a master of science in nursing from Oregon Health & Science University.