Choosing Between Mirena IUD and ParaGard IUD

What is an Intra Uterine Device?

If you are not clear on exactly what an IUD is, the simplest way to explain it is that it is a plastic device, which is both small and flexible and has a soft string extending into the upper part of the vagina and is inserted into the uterus. Most physicians agree that the IUD can safely stay in place for up to twelve years, although it can be removed at any time. Interestingly, doctors and scientists are not completely sure how the IUD works, however it appears to be nearly 100% effective-- even more effective than sterilization. Having an IUD inserted into your uterus makes it more difficult for eggs or sperm to move about freely, thus decreasing the chances of fertilization. Fertilized eggs will also have a hard time embedding in the uterus when an IUD is in place. Mirena and ParaGard are the two brand names of IUD's currently marketed in the United States. Both types of IUD's have certain advantages as well as disadvantages.


Small amounts of synthetic progesterone hormones are the hallmark of the Mirena IUD. These hormones are absorbed into the wall of the uterus. Although some women may have headaches, decreased enjoyment of sex or mood swings due to the hormones in Mirena, this is not especially common. Women who use Mirena usually have less painful and significantly lighter menstrual periods, while others may have spotting or irregular bleeding throughout their menstrual cycle. A complete absence of menstrual periods can occur in some women who use Mirena.. Those who have no menstrual periods may be completely happy about this or may be upset if they believe it is important to their overall health to have their monthly period. Mirena can generally remain safely in the body for up to five years. The Mirena IUD takes up to seven days following insertion to become effective in preventing pregnancy, so backup birth control must be used during that time.


The major difference from the Mirena IUD to the ParaGard, is the small piece of wire wrapped around the plastic body of the ParaGard, and the absence of hormones. Many women who choose ParaGard report heavier and more painful menstrual periods than experienced prior to insertion. Irregular bleeding is much more common in ParaGard users than in those who choose Mirena. The ParaGard IUD can stay in for ten to twelve years, as it does not contain the small amounts of hormones Mirena does. The ParaGard IUD effectively prevents pregnancy as soon as it is inserted, so no backup birth control is required.

Insertion or Removal of the IUD

Theoretically, neither the plastic nor the string can be seen or felt once it is inserted, although some women would disagree. Insertion of either Mirena or ParaGard generally takes from five to fifteen minutes and is routinely done in your doctor's office. While some women report they were barely able to feel the device being inserted, others have reported finding insertion almost excruciatingly painful. The pain level will be somewhere in between for most women. Although it is very rare, occasionally as your doctor inserts the IUD, the uterus may be perforated. If this occurs, the IUD will be removed and the uterus will generally heal on its own with no problems. If the perforation is missed, the IUD could conceivably become implanted in the wall of the uterus, or gravitate to the abdominal cavity. Either of these occurrences would require surgery to remove the IUD. Removal of the IUD is generally quick and painless, accomplished by inserting a speculum into the vagina and pulling gently on the IUD string.

Should you have any of the following health conditions, you should not use an IUD for birth control:

· You should tell your doctor if there is the slimmest possibility you could be pregnant, or if you know you are already pregnant.

· Any STD, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, or a pelvic inflammatory disease will require you to be treated prior to having an IUD inserted.

· An infection following an abortion or childbirth will need to be positively resolved prior to getting an IUD.

· A diagnosis of cervical cancer will require the completion of all treatments prior to having an IUD inserted.

· Some women have a uterus shape which will block the IUD from being inserted. Your doctor will tell you if this is the case and you will have to choose another form of birth control.

· Those women with breast cancer could use ParaGard as it contains no hormones, however Mirena use would not be advised.

· Don't hold back any information when discussing an IUD with your doctor. It's important he knows if you've had an abortion in the past four weeks or given birth in the same time frame. If you are at an especially high risk of AIDS, HIV or STD's, discuss this frankly with your doctor before deciding on an IUD for birth control.

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