How Does IUD Birth Control Work?

Women have been taking birth control for decades, but often with very little knowledge of the science behind how birth control works, and the effects on your body.

While there is plenty of education on how a condom works, other birth control methods, such as the IUD, are more complicated to understand.

When choosing birth control, it’s important to know both the benefits and side effects of the options available. Read on to learn more about the IUD.

Holding an IUD birth control device in hand

What Is an IUD?

An IUD (Intrauterine Device) is a long-term contraception option and one of the most effective birth control methods out there. It is a tiny device that’s put into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. Although long-term, it is also easily reversible.

The FDA has approved 5 types of IUD in the United States including ParaGard, Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla.

IUDs use copper or hormones to prevent pregnancy. Each type of IUD will work for a slightly different length, ranging from 3-6 years, unless removed early.

How Does an IUD Work?

Some IUD’s, such as the ParaGard IUD, are made using a small amount of copper, which is released into the uterus and works as a spermicide. Copper is toxic to sperm.

The other IUD types including Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla, release a form of the hormone progestin into the uterus. Progestin thickens the cervical mucus so that sperm can’t reach the egg. In some women, progestin may also prevent ovulation.

Both copper and hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by changing the way sperm cells move so the sperm can’t get to an egg and fertilize it, which would otherwise result in pregnancy.

How Is an IUD Inserted?

The IUD must be inserted into the uterus, and the thought of this procedure can be off-putting, however, it is a simple and quick procedure done by a nurse or doctor.

First, you will have your vagina, cervix, and uterus checked. You may also be checked for STIs or pregnancy.

Some women may need medication to numb their cervix before the procedure so it’s easier to open. The IUD will then be inserted into the vagina in a procedure that usually takes less than five minutes.

Many women feel fine after having an IUD inserted. However, if you experience cramps or dizziness, you should rest after the procedure. Intermittent cramping or spotting can last up to 3-6 months.

Is an IUD Safe?

Copper IUDs are safe as copper is a mineral found throughout your body. Although you should not choose this option if you have a copper allergy, Wilson’s Disease, or a bleeding disorder that makes it hard for your blood to clot.

Hormonal IUDs are also safe for most women, although you shouldn’t get a hormonal IUD if you have had breast cancer.

You should not choose either IUD as your contraception method if you:

  • Have cancer of the uterus or cervix
  • Have an STI
  • Have a pelvic infection
  • Have had a pelvic infection after either childbirth or an abortion in the past 3 months

What Are the Side Effects?

An IUD is very effective with annual failure rates well under one percent. However, like all birth control, it can fail on rare occasions. If you get pregnant with an IUD in place, there’s an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and other serious health problems. If you think you are pregnant, have the IUD removed by your nurse or doctor right away.

It’s rare but possible to get an infection if bacteria get into the uterus when the IUD is inserted. You should seek medical help if you think you have an infection as it may impact long-term fertility if left untreated.

IUDs can move after placement, which would impact effectiveness. On rare occasions, an IUD may push through the wall of the uterus and may need surgery to remove the IUD.

Signs that your IUD has moved include being able to feel the IUD coming out through your cervix, heavy bleeding, cramping, pain, or soreness, pain or bleeding during sex, vaginal bleeding or discharge that is unusual.

Additional resources when considering using an IUD:

Call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit to talk about the IUD or other birth control options.

5 Ways Your Vagina Is Unique – And When It Should Worry You

Every woman is unique, with her individual thoughts, personality, body shape, and vagina.

While we encourage women to embrace their uniqueness, it’s important to know when something isn’t quite right down there.

Woman with Hands Holding her Crotch Isolated

Your vagina is an elastic, muscular canal with a soft, flexible lining that provides lubrication and sensation. The vagina connects the uterus to the outside world. The vulva and labia form the entrance, and the cervix of the uterus protrudes into the vagina, forming the interior end.

Here are the five main ways vagina, vulva, and labia may differ, and when it might be a cause for concern.

5 Ways Your Vagina Is Unique

  1. Smell

It’s perfectly normal for a vagina to have an aroma, this will likely change throughout your menstrual cycle and may smell metallic at certain times of the month. Your vagina may smell different for a short period after intercourse or exercise. Odor can also be affected by wearing tight-fitting underwear in a fabric that doesn’t breathe. Wearing 100% cotton underwear is recommended.

All women will experience changes in odor, but a strong or unusual odor, such as a ‘fishy’ smell may be a sign of an infection. You should not attempt to mask this with douches or sprays. Your vagina cleanses itself naturally and keeps a healthy pH balance while keeping unhealthy bacteria at bay.

To keep your vaginal odor healthy be sure to practice good hygiene and wash with a mild soap and water, including before and after intercourse and exercise.

If your vaginal odor doesn’t go away or is combined with discharge or other unusual symptoms, make an appointment with your healthcare provider and get it checked out.

  1. Appearance

Women come in all shapes and sizes and the vagina is no different. Every woman looks and feels different on the outside and inside, starting with the vaginal entrance, the vulva, and labia. It is normal to have different sized clitoris and labia – it’s also common and normal to look unsymmetrical.

  1. Color

Like your skin tone, vaginal color is different from one woman to the next and can range from pink to brown. It is not unusual for your vaginal area to be a different color than the rest of your skin. If your vaginal color changes, it could be due to pregnancy.

  1. Size

When talking about your vagina size, you may be referring to vaginal length. Vaginal length will vary slightly between women, but is around 3-4 inches long and can expand when aroused.

The vagina is surrounded by muscle and ‘tightness’ may be affected by decreased muscle tone caused by increased age or childbirth.  If you are noticing a difference in tightness that is causing incontinence, or want to prevent it, you can try Kegel exercises. Regular general exercise, including working your core will also help maintain muscle tightness.

  1. Texture

Changes in vaginal texture is often a sign that something isn’t quite right. If you remove your pubic hair by waxing or shaving, it is not unusual to get bumpy ingrown hairs or razor burn. However, you should see your doctor about any unusual bumps or blisters which do not go away to ensure that they are not caused by herpes or genital warts.

Vaginal dryness, which often causes itchiness, can be a symptom of menopause and there are treatments available to relieve this. If you experience prolonged vaginal dryness and are not nearing menopause, you should see your doctor.

Additional resources on vaginal health:

Speak to your doctor about any unusual vaginal changes. Call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit

6 Parenting Resolutions to Make for The New Year

The New Year is a great time to make positive changes in your life and for your own and your family’s health.

Many parents know the importance of good health and habits for their children, but with our busy modern lifestyles, our own habits often slip. It’s important for the whole family to practice healthy living and for parents to set a positive example.

  1. Eat a Healthy Breakfast Every Day

Breakfast time can be hectic for families, especially when both parents are working and rushing to get out the door. It’s important for everyone in the family to eat a healthy breakfast. This could be a bowl of oatmeal, a smoothie, eggs or fresh fruit. It’s tempting to give yourself and your children a quick fix breakfast, but try to avoid high sugar cereals, pastries, or fast food breakfasts. Prepping food in advance – such as containers of fresh fruit – or using packets of quick-prep oatmeal can help.

  1. Get Everyone on a Bedtime Schedule

Disruptions in your sleep patterns can affect you for days, and children are no different. Over the festive season bedtimes are often disrupted as both children and adults stay up for social gatherings, so routines may need to be reinforced come January. Regular bedtimes help children thrive and give you some ‘me’ time so you are less stressed. Set bedtimes for both your children and yourself to ensure everyone is getting a decent and regular amount of sleep.

  1. Exercise as a Family

It can be hard for parents to fit in regular exercise, but exercise is important for both children and adults. Combine exercise with quality time by going for walks as a family, taking a ball or frisbee to a local park or put on a family aerobic video.

  1. Take Deep Breaths

The pressures of everyday life take their toll on all of us from time to time, and parents are often under a lot of stress to balance parenting with other commitments. When children are throwing tantrums, it can be easy to snap at them out of frustration. Before reacting, try and take a deep breath. Deep breathing will help you relax and in turn impacts the calmness of your children. It also sets a positive example of how to deal with a difficult situation calmly, instead of reacting with more yelling.

  1. Take Some ‘Me’ Time

Making sure you take some for yourself will help you be a more relaxed parent. As your children get a little older you can take a step back from managing everything for them and it will allow you more time to yourself, and give them the opportunity to build their own problem-solving skills.

  1. Get Everyone Washing Their Hands

We all know we should wash our hands after using the restroom, but it’s also important to wash your hands regularly throughout the day and before eating. Germs spread quickly within families and school-aged children are especially susceptible to picking up bugs. Instilling good hand washing habits will help reduce bugs for the whole family.

More information on parenting tips:

With any goal setting remember to set realistic goals that are achievable, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t manage to fulfill all your resolutions all the time.

To learn more about women’s health services call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit