There are 5 types of IUDs — here's how to choose the best one for your body

ShutterstockIn the US, there are five different IUDs on the market.
  • IUDs offer reversible, highly effective, long-lasting birth control.
  • The copper IUD lasts up to 10 years and has no hormones, but can make periods worse.
  • The hormonal IUDs last 3 to 5 years depending on brand, and they can make periods lighter or make them disappear.

You’ve probably heard lots of buzz about the intrauterine device (IUD) – the small-but-mighty implant that can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 10 years, depending on the type you choose. And if you’re of reproductive age, you’ve probably wondered whether the device is a good choice for you.

“Most women can be good candidates for IUDs,” Dr. Salena Zanotti a gynecologist at Cleveland Clinic, told INSIDER. “The American Academy of Pediatrics even supports using them as a first-line contraceptive for adolescents and teens.” (Women with a history of certain cancers, copper allergies, and uterine abnormalities may not be good candidates; talk with your doctor to know for sure.)

IUDs have two major selling points: Effectiveness and ease of use

First, they’re very effective at preventing pregnancy – better than the pill. Second, there’s no human error involved in using one. Once it’s in place, you don’t have to think about it.

The most important thing to remember? Don’t let the online IUD horror stories scare you away from considering one.

“Probably 90% of my [patients] love their IUD,” Zanotti said. “The problem is you don’t hear from those women. But it’s worth trying because if it works well for you, then you’re set for three to 10 years. And if it doesn’t, it can always come out. It’s a very easy thing to remove.”

But then comes the tough part: If you do want to get an IUD, how do you choose the best brand for your body? This guide will help you compare and contrast all five options currently on the market in the US.

1. ParaGard

Paragard copper IUDCourtesy Teva Pharmaceutical IndustriesThe ParaGard IUD.

Active ingredient: copper

Lasts for: 10 years, according to the FDA, but research shows it’s actually effective as long as 12 years. Talk with your doctor about specifics.

The lowdown: No IUD lasts longer than ParaGard. Plus, for women who can’t have – or don’t want – extra hormones in their bodies, ParaGard is a safe choice.

ParaGard users also have more regular periods since the lack of hormones means the body is running on its natural cycle. It’s a good choice if you know you want to experience a period every month. But, without those hormones, periods can be longer and heavier with more cramps, especially during the first six months after insertion, Zanotti explained. ParaGard can also be used for emergency contraception if you have unprotected sex.

2. Mirena

MIRENA IUDCaroline Praderio/INSIDERMirena lasts five years.

Active ingredient: the hormone levonorgestrel

Dose: 52 mg

Lasts for: five years

The lowdown: Levonorgestrel makes periods lighter and shorter – and for an impressive span of five years. A growing body of research also shows that Mirena may last as long as seven years.

And you probably don’t have to worry about the hormone factor, even if you’ve had bad experiences with the pill in past: When you have an IUD, the amount of hormone circulating in your blood is significantly lower than it would be on the pill. That’s because it stays contained inside the uterus.

Also, hormonal IUDs have just one hormone, while most popular pills contain two. (This is true of all hormonal IUDs, by the way, not just Mirena.) Even women who’ve had a bad experience with the pill can do just fine with a hormonal IUD, Zanotti explained.

One more thing: “The IUDs with the higher dose [like Mirena] tend to have a higher rate of a woman not having a period at all, which a lot of women do like,” Zanotti said. Of course, that also freaks some women out. If you know you want a period every month, you might want to opt for ParaGard or the lower-dose IUDs, like Skyla and Kyleena, below.

3. Skyla

SKYLA IUDCaroline Praderio/INSIDERA Skyla IUD in its applicator.

Active ingredient: the hormone levonorgestrel

Dose: 13.5 mg

Lasts for: three years

The lowdown: Skyla has a lower dose of hormones than Mirena does – but there’s still enough to make your periods shorter, lighter, and possibly disappear altogether, though it’s a bit less likely. They also might be more irregular.

“There’s some evidence that the IUDs with the lower dose might have higher irregular bleeding,” Zanotti said. “Meaning [women] might have a little bit more spotting irregularly throughout the month.”

4. Liletta

Liletta IUDCourtesy AllerganA Liletta IUD attached to the applicator.

Active ingredient: the hormone levonorgestrel

Dose: 52 mg

Lasts for: five years

The lowdown: Liletta has a higher dose of hormone, just like Mirena. That means it will make your periods shorter and lighter, and there’s a chance they won’t come at all.

5. Kyleena

KYLEENA IUDCaroline Praderio/INSIDERKyleena is similar to Skyla but lasts longer.

Active ingredient: the hormone levonorgestrel

Dose: 19.5 mg

Lasts for: five years

The lowdown: Kyleena has a lower dose of hormone, like Skyla, but it lasts longer.

Since they’re both low-dose, they will generally affect your period the same way: It will be shorter and lighter, it may disappear, and you may have more irregular bleeding compared to your period with the high-dose IUD options.

Want to get an IUD, but not sure how? Here’s everything you need to know about getting one.

This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Liletta has been FDA-approved to last up to five years. It was initially approved to last up to three years.

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