What You Need to Know Before Quitting the Pill

Between reports of health complications and more women thinking about IUDs, you might be considering a break from birth control pills. If you’re concerned about what this change will do to your body, here’s some information and advice from a board-certified physician who practices in southern California.

Dear Doctor,

I have been taking birth control pills for 10 years and things have shifted in my personal life and I no longer need to worry about getting pregnant. I want to go off this pill but am worried what will happen to my body and my cycle. Can you tell me what I should expect when I stop taking the pill? Will I gain weight? Will I break out? Will my period be just awful? Also, how long will it take for my hormone levels to return to normal?

¡ª No More Pill For Me

Let me take off my lady doctor cap for a moment and share with all of you that I went through this very same issue last year. After years on the pill, I stopped taking it and will give both some professional and personal advice on this matter with you.

To begin, the birth control pill works by preventing ovulation. Once you stop taking the pill, the hormones are out of your body quickly, usually within a couple of days (this is why women who miss a couple days of pills on birth control have a chance of ovulating and getting pregnant!). Another important point to make is that it does not matter how long you were on the pill, from 10 weeks to 10 months to more than 15 years, your body will still be rid of the hormones within a couple of days!

Once the hormones are out of your system, your body will begin to start producing hormones to initiate menstrual cycles. Some women will begin to ovulate in a couple of weeks, whereas it may take several months for other women to begin to ovulate. Generally speaking, your body should be back to “normal menstruation mode” within two to three months after stopping the pill. It is important to emphasize that if you had problems with ovulation prior to starting the pill, you may continue to have irregular ovulation/periods after stopping the pill. Most women with normal ovulation/periods prior to starting the pill will continue to have normal ovulation/periods after stopping the pill. But some women who had regular periods prior to starting the pill may have irregular ovulation after stopping the pill. The key point here is that everyone’s experience with ovulation/periods after stopping the pill is different!

There is a condition called post-pill amenorrhea (or lack of menstruation) that can occur after stopping the birth control pill. According to the Mayo Clinic, the reason for lack of menstruation in these women is that the body is just taking longer to produce the hormones necessary for ovulation and menstruation. If you still haven’t had a period after three months, they recommend taking a pregnancy test. It would be prudent to also schedule an appointment with either your primary care physician or gynecologist for evaluation. Some women never get a period after they stop taking the pill because they ovulate and conceive right away after the discontinuation. If you do not want to become pregnant, use another form of contraception such as condoms or a diaphragm.

Many women take certain birth control pills to regulate their acne. Once you stop using birth control, you may notice an increase in acne on your face or on other parts of your body. When your body’s hormone levels regulate again, the acne can subside in some cases. As far as weight fluctuation is concerned, it has been shown that birth control pills that are higher in estrogen may cause weight gain and water retention. Therefore, your body may adjust after stopping the pill and some weight loss may occur due to a decrease in water retention. Again, each woman’s experience may be different. Case in point, I did gain some weight after I stopped the pill, but it may have been because of other factors due to the stress of trying to conceive, which is why I stopped taking the pill. Many birth control pills are designed especially to help treat exaggerated premenstrual syndromes or, in certain women, premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Thus, some women will notice increased breast tenderness and other premenstrual symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and fluctuating emotions.

I’ll finish by telling you more about my experience with stopping birth control. I had regular menstrual cycles before I started the pill, but this was not the case after I stopped the pill. It took approximately two months to get my first period off the pill, and they were very irregular after that (ranging from five weeks to 12 weeks between periods). After seeking consultation with my gynecologist after one year of irregular cycles, I was diagnosed with oligo-ovulation, which basically means I ovulate very infrequently. They could not find any medical cause for this problem after an extensive workup. At first, I felt like something was wrong with me or that I had done something in my lifetime to cause this. But I now realize I am not alone and that there are many women out there going through the same problems I am going through! Hopefully, if any of my readers are going through the same problem as me, they can feel better knowing that there are many women out there (including myself) that are going through it as well!

DrSugar posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne

What You Need to Know Before Quitting the Pill

Between reports of health complications and more women thinking about IUDs| you might be considering a break from birth control pills. If you’re concerned about what this change will do to your body| here’s some information and advice from a board-certified physician who practices in southern California.

Dear Doctor|

I have been taking birth control pills for 10 years and things have shifted in my personal life and I no longer need to worry about getting pregnant. I want to go off this pill but am worried what will happen to my body and my cycle. Can you tell me what I should expect when I stop taking the pill? Will I gain weight? Will I break out? Will my period be just awful? Also| how long will it take for my hormone levels to return to normal?

No More Pill For Me

Let me take off my lady doctor cap for a moment and share with all of you that I went through this very same issue last year. After years on the pill| I stopped taking it and will give both some professional and personal advice on this matter with you.

To begin| the birth control pill works by preventing ovulation. Once you stop taking the pill| the hormones are out of your body quickly| usually within a couple of days (this is why women who miss a couple days of pills on birth control have a chance of ovulating and getting pregnant!). Another important point to make is that it does not matter how long you were on the pill| from 10 weeks to 10 months to more than 15 years| your body will still be rid of the hormones within a couple of days!

Once the hormones are out of your system| your body will begin to start producing hormones to initiate menstrual cycles. Some women will begin to ovulate in a couple of weeks| whereas it may take several months for other women to begin to ovulate. Generally speaking| your body should be back to “normal menstruation mode” within two to three months after stopping the pill. It is important to emphasize that if you had problems with ovulation prior to starting the pill| you may continue to have irregular ovulation/periods after stopping the pill. Most women with normal ovulation/periods prior to starting the pill will continue to have normal ovulation/periods after stopping the pill. But some women who had regular periods prior to starting the pill may have irregular ovulation after stopping the pill. The key point here is that everyone’s experience with ovulation/periods after stopping the pill is different!

There is a condition called post-pill amenorrhea (or lack of menstruation) that can occur after stopping the birth control pill. According to the Mayo Clinic| the reason for lack of menstruation in these women is that the body is just taking longer to produce the hormones necessary for ovulation and menstruation. If you still haven’t had a period after three months| they recommend taking a pregnancy test. It would be prudent to also schedule an appointment with either your primary care physician or gynecologist for evaluation. Some women never get a period after they stop taking the pill because they ovulate and conceive right away after the discontinuation. If you do not want to become pregnant| use another form of contraception such as condoms or a diaphragm.

Many women take certain birth control pills to regulate their acne. Once you stop using birth control| you may notice an increase in acne on your face or on other parts of your body. When your body’s hormone levels regulate again| the acne can subside in some cases. As far as weight fluctuation is concerned| it has been shown that birth control pills that are higher in estrogen may cause weight gain and water retention. Therefore| your body may adjust after stopping the pill and some weight loss may occur due to a decrease in water retention. Again| each woman’s experience may be different. Case in point| I did gain some weight after I stopped the pill| but it may have been because of other factors due to the stress of trying to conceive| which is why I stopped taking the pill. Many birth control pills are designed especially to help treat exaggerated premenstrual syndromes or| in certain women| premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Thus| some women will notice increased breast tenderness and other premenstrual symptoms such as nausea| headaches| and fluctuating emotions.

I’ll finish by telling you more about my experience with stopping birth control. I had regular menstrual cycles before I started the pill| but this was not the case after I stopped the pill. It took approximately two months to get my first period off the pill| and they were very irregular after that (ranging from five weeks to 12 weeks between periods). After seeking consultation with my gynecologist after one year of irregular cycles| I was diagnosed with oligo-ovulation| which basically means I ovulate very infrequently. They could not find any medical cause for this problem after an extensive workup. At first| I felt like something was wrong with me or that I had done something in my lifetime to cause this. But I now realize I am not alone and that there are many women out there going through the same problems I am going through! Hopefully| if any of my readers are going through the same problem as me| they can feel better knowing that there are many women out there (including myself) that are going through it as well!

DrSugar posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice| diagnosis| or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne

Bookmark This Page For When You Forget to Take Your Birth Control

Accidentally skipping a birth control pill, or two, can leave you beyond worried. We turned to a board certified physician to offer advice on when you’ve missed a dose, or two, or three, of birth control pills. Keep reading to hear what she has to say on the matter.

I have receives countless questions from women who have inadvertently skipped a birth control pill, so I will be giving a general overview on what to do when you realize you have missed a dose. While this column will have general information on oral contraceptives and how to manage missing doses, I stress that it is best to talk with your health care provider who prescribed the pills about what to do. Different brands of pills have varying hormonal formulations and thus different potential effects when pills are missed. In some cases, you may be able to simply resume taking pills at your regular time the day after missing a pill and move on with life. In other cases, skipping even one pill (or extending the placebo week) could result in a serious threat to effective pregnancy prevention; it really depends on the type of pill you take. An additional factor to be aware of is that some brands of pills are multiphasic, meaning that pills in a single pack of birth control have differing levels of hormones. Depending on which pill you missed (or which “phase” pill it was), your health care provider may have different recommendations about how to proceed. This column will provide information from Planned Parenthood on the most common type of birth control pills, the combination pill.

Depending on when you miss pills and how many pills you miss, you could become pregnant. Planned Parenthood reports that there is a highly increased risk of pregnancy if you go without taking the pill for seven or more days in a row. This could happen if you forget to start a new pack on time (i.e. right after the seven days of placebo you take during your period) or if you forget to take the last few pills in your pack. Planned Parenthood has a great chart on the general directions of what to do if you have missed pills.

If you miss the first one to two pills at the beginning of the pack, then you should take a pill as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time. If this happens you will need a seven-day backup method of birth control.If you miss one to two pills from day three through day 21 of your pack, then take a pill as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time. If this happens, Planned Parenthood reports you do not need a backup method of birth control. If you miss three or more pills in the first two weeks of the pack, take a pill as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time. Seven-day backup birth control will be necessary in this situation. If you miss three or more pills in the third week of the pack, do not finish the pack and throw it away. Start a new pack and use seven-day backup birth control.

While you need specific information from your health care provider about what to do, you may not actually need to have an in-office visit. If you can provide enough information to your provider (or one of her or his staff) over the phone, s/he may be able to give you an answer that way. You could also look for the explanatory pamphlet that comes with each pack of pills (usually a small, folded piece of paper), which may have some guidance about the brand’s formulation and what to do in the case of a missed pill. If pregnancy is a concern, you could consider taking emergency contraception (EC).

Hopefully this information is helpful; however, I urge anyone who misses birth control pills to contact their health care provider for specific instructions based on what type of birth control you are taking in order to be certain that you are doing the right things to help prevent pregnancy!

DrSugar posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne

Bookmark This Page For When You Forget to Take Your Birth Control

Accidentally skipping a birth control pill| or two| can leave you beyond worried. We turned to a board certified physician to offer advice on when you’ve missed a dose| or two| or three| of birth control pills. Keep reading to hear what she has to say on the matter.

I have receives countless questions from women who have inadvertently skipped a birth control pill| so I will be giving a general overview on what to do when you realize you have missed a dose. While this column will have general information on oral contraceptives and how to manage missing doses| I stress that it is best to talk with your health care provider who prescribed the pills about what to do. Different brands of pills have varying hormonal formulations and thus different potential effects when pills are missed. In some cases| you may be able to simply resume taking pills at your regular time the day after missing a pill and move on with life. In other cases| skipping even one pill (or extending the placebo week) could result in a serious threat to effective pregnancy prevention; it really depends on the type of pill you take. An additional factor to be aware of is that some brands of pills are multiphasic| meaning that pills in a single pack of birth control have differing levels of hormones. Depending on which pill you missed (or which “phase” pill it was)| your health care provider may have different recommendations about how to proceed. This column will provide information from Planned Parenthood on the most common type of birth control pills| the combination pill.

Depending on when you miss pills and how many pills you miss| you could become pregnant. Planned Parenthood reports that there is a highly increased risk of pregnancy if you go without taking the pill for seven or more days in a row. This could happen if you forget to start a new pack on time (i.e. right after the seven days of placebo you take during your period) or if you forget to take the last few pills in your pack. Planned Parenthood has a great chart on the general directions of what to do if you have missed pills.

If you miss the first one to two pills at the beginning of the pack| then you should take a pill as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time. If this happens you will need a seven-day backup method of birth control.If you miss one to two pills from day three through day 21 of your pack| then take a pill as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time. If this happens| Planned Parenthood reports you do not need a backup method of birth control. If you miss three or more pills in the first two weeks of the pack| take a pill as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time. Seven-day backup birth control will be necessary in this situation. If you miss three or more pills in the third week of the pack| do not finish the pack and throw it away. Start a new pack and use seven-day backup birth control.

While you need specific information from your health care provider about what to do| you may not actually need to have an in-office visit. If you can provide enough information to your provider (or one of her or his staff) over the phone| s/he may be able to give you an answer that way. You could also look for the explanatory pamphlet that comes with each pack of pills (usually a small| folded piece of paper)| which may have some guidance about the brand’s formulation and what to do in the case of a missed pill. If pregnancy is a concern| you could consider taking emergency contraception (EC).

Hopefully this information is helpful; however| I urge anyone who misses birth control pills to contact their health care provider for specific instructions based on what type of birth control you are taking in order to be certain that you are doing the right things to help prevent pregnancy!

DrSugar posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice| diagnosis| or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne

I Went Off the Pill Thinking I’d Lose Weight, but Here’s What Really Happened . . .

After having two children, I felt like I needed a more reliable form of birth control once my second stopped nursing. Charting my cycle proved to be previously ineffective since I was following it before getting pregnant with number two (love you, Devon!). I had also been experiencing annoying night sweats. Ten days out of each cycle, before and during my period, I’d wake up several times a night, completely soaked through my clothes. I finally saw my doctor, who confirmed what I thought ¡ª I needed to try hormonal birth control. I thought about the Mirena IUD, but she feared the dosage would be too low to help with the night sweats and suggested the pill instead.

One of the first questions I asked her was, “Can you put me on one that won’t make me gain weight?” She smiled and reassured me that no statistics show birth control pills affecting weight, though some women may say differently based on their personal experience.

So I went home, pill pack in hand, ready to conquer fertility and night sweats. While I felt like I did gain a few pounds, I was also running a lot more, so it was most likely muscle mass. And the night sweats continued. Some months were better than others, but after 15 months on the pill, I had had enough and decided to call it quits. Having to remember to take that damn pill every day, and the fact that it didn’t help my sweating issue, just put me over the edge. I was also trying to lose a little bit of weight I was holding onto since my last pregnancy (yes, my youngest was now almost 3), so I got a little excited thinking going off the pill would help me out.

One month went by, two months went by, it’s now been three months and sadly, my doctor was right. Going off the pill didn’t make the scale budge one bit. If anything, I may have gained a few pounds because thanks to PMS, I’m craving more sugar that week before my period arrives. On a side note, I also feel insanely emotional due to the natural fluctuation of my lovely hormones. With videos like moms empowering kids to exercise and elderly women giving advice to their younger selves, reaching for the box of tissues is a given. Miraculously, the night sweats disappeared after throwing out that last pill pack, so that’s pretty exciting. All in all, I love being off the pill. And I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll have to lose that extra bit of mummy tummy the good old-fashioned way with healthy eating and exercise.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne

I Went Off the Pill Thinking I’d Lose Weight, but Here’s What Really Happened . . .

After having two children| I felt like I needed a more reliable form of birth control once my second stopped nursing. Charting my cycle proved to be previously ineffective since I was following it before getting pregnant with number two (love you| Devon!). I had also been experiencing annoying night sweats. Ten days out of each cycle| before and during my period| I’d wake up several times a night| completely soaked through my clothes. I finally saw my doctor| who confirmed what I thought ¡ª I needed to try hormonal birth control. I thought about the Mirena IUD| but she feared the dosage would be too low to help with the night sweats and suggested the pill instead.

One of the first questions I asked her was| “Can you put me on one that won’t make me gain weight?” She smiled and reassured me that no statistics show birth control pills affecting weight| though some women may say differently based on their personal experience.

So I went home| pill pack in hand| ready to conquer fertility and night sweats. While I felt like I did gain a few pounds| I was also running a lot more| so it was most likely muscle mass. And the night sweats continued. Some months were better than others| but after 15 months on the pill| I had had enough and decided to call it quits. Having to remember to take that damn pill every day| and the fact that it didn’t help my sweating issue| just put me over the edge. I was also trying to lose a little bit of weight I was holding onto since my last pregnancy (yes| my youngest was now almost 3)| so I got a little excited thinking going off the pill would help me out.

One month went by| two months went by| it’s now been three months and sadly| my doctor was right. Going off the pill didn’t make the scale budge one bit. If anything| I may have gained a few pounds because thanks to PMS| I’m craving more sugar that week before my period arrives. On a side note| I also feel insanely emotional due to the natural fluctuation of my lovely hormones. With videos like moms empowering kids to exercise and elderly women giving advice to their younger selves| reaching for the box of tissues is a given. Miraculously| the night sweats disappeared after throwing out that last pill pack| so that’s pretty exciting. All in all| I love being off the pill. And I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll have to lose that extra bit of mummy tummy the good old-fashioned way with healthy eating and exercise.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne

Why You Might Prefer a Mirena IUD Over the Pill

The pill, the patch, the ring ¡ª they’re all great in theory, but if you constantly forget to take your pills or hate the waiting period for both the patch and ring, these might not be the best choices for pregnancy prevention. For a more long-term form of birth control, many women are using the Mirena.

What it is: The Mirena is a type of intrauterine device (IUD) that is placed inside your uterus by a health-care provider to prevent pregnancy for up to five years. It’s a T-shaped piece of soft, flexible plastic less than 1.5 inches long that emits a small amount of progestin directly into your uterus (it’s estrogen-free). There are two threads attached to the end that hang down out the opening of your cervix to help you check whether it’s in the correct place.

Effectiveness: It’s 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancy, but like the pill, it won’t protect against STDs such as HIV. It is effective immediately if inserted within seven days after the start of your period, otherwise you’ll need a backup form of birth control for the first seven days after getting the Mirena.

How it works: The small amounts of levonorgestrel (a type of progestin) released by Mirena thicken your cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering your uterus so they can’t reach your egg, and thus can’t fertilize it. It also thins the lining of your uterus, and may stop the release of your egg from your ovaries. In the unlikely event that a sperm does fertilize your egg and it survives, an IUD causes inflammation of the uterus making it harder for the fertilized egg to implant. To ensure the Mirena remains in place, insert a finger into your vagina, feel for the cervix, and check for the threads once a month.

Who should use it: Since this is a long-term form of birth control, it’s recommended for women who aren’t planning on having children for several years, are done having children, or don’t want to have children. Since it doesn’t offer protection against STDs, it’s recommended for women who are in long-term relationships with someone they know is STD-free.

The pros: Insertion only takes a few minutes and it’ll prevent pregnancy for up to five years. After a year of use, one out of every five users will have no period at all ¡ª think of all the money you’ll save on pads and tampons! If you need birth control for longer than five years, you can choose to have another one inserted after the first one is removed. It’s also easily reversible, which means if you decide you want to become pregnant, just have the Mirena removed and you can start trying right away. Since the hormones stay in the uterus, it won’t cause significant weight gain like oral contraceptives sometimes do or increase breast tenderness.

The cons: Insertion can be very painful and can cause some women cramping, bleeding, and dizziness. Some women complain of irregular periods, spotting, and some have heavy bleeding for the first several months of use. IUDs also increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), although the percentage of women using the Mirena who develop PID is less than one percent. A rare life-threatening infection called sepsis could also occur within the first few days after Mirena is placed. The Mirena could also become embedded in the uterine wall, or even perforate it, and in either case, the user would no longer be protected from pregnancy, and the Mirena would need to be surgically removed. Another not-so-great thing about the Mirena is that since the threads hang down out the opening of your cervix, your partner may be able to feel them during intercourse.

How it differs from ParaGard IUD: The ParaGard contains copper and is completely hormone-free, so it won’t interfere with your natural menstrual cycle. This is good news for women who don’t want to take hormones and who like getting their monthly period to let them know they’re not pregnant. Some women experience heavier periods or spotting while using the ParaGard, but this usually subsides after three months. Like the Mirena, it’s also 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancy and is effective immediately after insertion, regardless of where you are in your cycle. The ParaGard, however, lasts twice as long as the Mirena, for up to 10 years.

How it differs from Skyla IUD: Another hormone-releasing IUD, it works just like the Mirena and is also 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancy. It’s just over one inch, so it’s slightly smaller than the Mirena and needs to be replaced every three years. Irregular spotting and periods may occur for the first three to six months, but after that, many women experience shorter, light periods or no periods at all.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / THEM TOO

Why You Might Prefer a Mirena IUD Over the Pill

The pill| the patch| the ring ¡ª they’re all great in theory| but if you constantly forget to take your pills or hate the waiting period for both the patch and ring| these might not be the best choices for pregnancy prevention. For a more long-term form of birth control| many women are using the Mirena.

What it is: The Mirena is a type of intrauterine device (IUD) that is placed inside your uterus by a health-care provider to prevent pregnancy for up to five years. It’s a T-shaped piece of soft| flexible plastic less than 1.5 inches long that emits a small amount of progestin directly into your uterus (it’s estrogen-free). There are two threads attached to the end that hang down out the opening of your cervix to help you check whether it’s in the correct place.

Effectiveness: It’s 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancy| but like the pill| it won’t protect against STDs such as HIV. It is effective immediately if inserted within seven days after the start of your period| otherwise you’ll need a backup form of birth control for the first seven days after getting the Mirena.

How it works: The small amounts of levonorgestrel (a type of progestin) released by Mirena thicken your cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering your uterus so they can’t reach your egg| and thus can’t fertilize it. It also thins the lining of your uterus| and may stop the release of your egg from your ovaries. In the unlikely event that a sperm does fertilize your egg and it survives| an IUD causes inflammation of the uterus making it harder for the fertilized egg to implant. To ensure the Mirena remains in place| insert a finger into your vagina| feel for the cervix| and check for the threads once a month.

Who should use it: Since this is a long-term form of birth control| it’s recommended for women who aren’t planning on having children for several years| are done having children| or don’t want to have children. Since it doesn’t offer protection against STDs| it’s recommended for women who are in long-term relationships with someone they know is STD-free.

The pros: Insertion only takes a few minutes and it’ll prevent pregnancy for up to five years. After a year of use| one out of every five users will have no period at all think of all the money you’ll save on pads and tampons! If you need birth control for longer than five years| you can choose to have another one inserted after the first one is removed. It’s also easily reversible| which means if you decide you want to become pregnant| just have the Mirena removed and you can start trying right away. Since the hormones stay in the uterus| it won’t cause significant weight gain like oral contraceptives sometimes do or increase breast tenderness.

The cons: Insertion can be very painful and can cause some women cramping| bleeding| and dizziness. Some women complain of irregular periods| spotting| and some have heavy bleeding for the first several months of use. IUDs also increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)| although the percentage of women using the Mirena who develop PID is less than one percent. A rare life-threatening infection called sepsis could also occur within the first few days after Mirena is placed. The Mirena could also become embedded in the uterine wall| or even perforate it| and in either case| the user would no longer be protected from pregnancy| and the Mirena would need to be surgically removed. Another not-so-great thing about the Mirena is that since the threads hang down out the opening of your cervix| your partner may be able to feel them during intercourse.

How it differs from ParaGard IUD: The ParaGard contains copper and is completely hormone-free| so it won’t interfere with your natural menstrual cycle. This is good news for women who don’t want to take hormones and who like getting their monthly period to let them know they’re not pregnant. Some women experience heavier periods or spotting while using the ParaGard| but this usually subsides after three months. Like the Mirena| it’s also 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancy and is effective immediately after insertion| regardless of where you are in your cycle. The ParaGard| however| lasts twice as long as the Mirena| for up to 10 years.

How it differs from Skyla IUD: Another hormone-releasing IUD| it works just like the Mirena and is also 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancy. It’s just over one inch| so it’s slightly smaller than the Mirena and needs to be replaced every three years. Irregular spotting and periods may occur for the first three to six months| but after that| many women experience shorter| light periods or no periods at all.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / THEM TOO

One Doc’s Personal Experience With an IUD

Birth control is always a hot topic, especially IUDs. Questions prevail about Mirena and ParaGard, so here is a comparison of these two popular IUDs from a board-certified physician. She even explains her personal experience with this form of contraception.

To continue our ongoing series of gynecological topics, I have decided to write about intrauterine devices (IUDs) as a form of birth control. Even though I learned about IUDs through many outlets (sex ed in school, medical school), I decided to research them more thoroughly since the birth control pills I started taking after having my baby negatively affected my milk supply. I had to find an alternate mode of contraception so I could continue to have an abundant milk supply for my little one. I had a ParaGard (copper) IUD inserted a couple of weeks ago and I’ll share my experience as well as more information about two types of IUDs in today’s column!

IUDs are small T-shaped devices that are inserted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Currently there are two FDA-approved IUDs. The ParaGard, made out of copper, is a nonhormonal type of IUD and can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years after insertion. You may be wondering how it prevents pregnancy, since it’s nonhormonal and nonbarrier. According to WebMD, copper is toxic to sperm. The ParaGard also makes the uterus and fallopian tubes produce fluid that kills sperm. However, if fertilization of an egg does occur, this IUD keeps the fertilized egg from implanting on the wall of the uterus. Other benefits of ParaGard include removal at any time with a quick return to fertility, decreased risk of endometrial cancer, it can be used while breastfeeding, and it doesn’t carry the risks that hormonal birth control has.

Mirena is a hormonal IUD and is the only FDA-approved hormonal IUD. Mirena can be used to prevent pregnancy for up to five years. WebMD reports that Mirena prevents fertilization of an egg by damaging or killing sperm and making the mucus in the cervix thick and sticky so sperm have a hard time getting through to the uterus. It also keeps the lining of the uterus from growing very thick, which makes the lining a poor place for a fertilized egg to implant and grow. Mirena also partially suppresses ovulation due to the hormones in the IUD. The hormones in Mirena also reduce menstrual bleeding and cramping. A surprising fact about Mirena is that it can also reduce the chance of developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

According to the Mayo Clinic, ParaGard can cause cramping, severe menstrual pain and heavy bleeding, nausea, backache, and painful sex. Mirena has different side effects that include headache, acne, breast tenderness, irregular cycles at first followed by a possibility of lack of menstrual periods after one year of use, mood changes, weight gain, nausea, ovarian cysts, and abdominal or pelvic pain. Both Mirena and ParaGard also carry the possibility of getting dislodged and expelled from the body. Neither IUDs protect against sexually transmitted infections.

In my own personal experience, the actual insertion of the ParaGard IUD was not painful, but this may have only been because my OB-GYN numbed my cervix with local anesthetic (which was actually quite painful in and of itself!). After the procedure, I had mild cramping for about three days and light spotting for about one day. Other than that, I have not had any long-lasting symptoms or concerns!

I hope that this information helps broaden your knowledge about the different types of contraception that are available, other than birth control pills. Again, if you have any questions about IUDs or want to determine if an IUD is a good option for you, you should take time to speak with your primary care physician or your OB-GYN.

DrSugar posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

One Doc’s Personal Experience With an IUD

Birth control is always a hot topic| especially IUDs. Questions prevail about Mirena and ParaGard| so here is a comparison of these two popular IUDs from a board-certified physician. She even explains her personal experience with this form of contraception.

To continue our ongoing series of gynecological topics| I have decided to write about intrauterine devices (IUDs) as a form of birth control. Even though I learned about IUDs through many outlets (sex ed in school| medical school)| I decided to research them more thoroughly since the birth control pills I started taking after having my baby negatively affected my milk supply. I had to find an alternate mode of contraception so I could continue to have an abundant milk supply for my little one. I had a ParaGard (copper) IUD inserted a couple of weeks ago and I’ll share my experience as well as more information about two types of IUDs in today’s column!

IUDs are small T-shaped devices that are inserted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Currently there are two FDA-approved IUDs. The ParaGard| made out of copper| is a nonhormonal type of IUD and can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years after insertion. You may be wondering how it prevents pregnancy| since it’s nonhormonal and nonbarrier. According to WebMD| copper is toxic to sperm. The ParaGard also makes the uterus and fallopian tubes produce fluid that kills sperm. However| if fertilization of an egg does occur| this IUD keeps the fertilized egg from implanting on the wall of the uterus. Other benefits of ParaGard include removal at any time with a quick return to fertility| decreased risk of endometrial cancer| it can be used while breastfeeding| and it doesn’t carry the risks that hormonal birth control has.

Mirena is a hormonal IUD and is the only FDA-approved hormonal IUD. Mirena can be used to prevent pregnancy for up to five years. WebMD reports that Mirena prevents fertilization of an egg by damaging or killing sperm and making the mucus in the cervix thick and sticky so sperm have a hard time getting through to the uterus. It also keeps the lining of the uterus from growing very thick| which makes the lining a poor place for a fertilized egg to implant and grow. Mirena also partially suppresses ovulation due to the hormones in the IUD. The hormones in Mirena also reduce menstrual bleeding and cramping. A surprising fact about Mirena is that it can also reduce the chance of developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

According to the Mayo Clinic| ParaGard can cause cramping| severe menstrual pain and heavy bleeding| nausea| backache| and painful sex. Mirena has different side effects that include headache| acne| breast tenderness| irregular cycles at first followed by a possibility of lack of menstrual periods after one year of use| mood changes| weight gain| nausea| ovarian cysts| and abdominal or pelvic pain. Both Mirena and ParaGard also carry the possibility of getting dislodged and expelled from the body. Neither IUDs protect against sexually transmitted infections.

In my own personal experience| the actual insertion of the ParaGard IUD was not painful| but this may have only been because my OB-GYN numbed my cervix with local anesthetic (which was actually quite painful in and of itself!). After the procedure| I had mild cramping for about three days and light spotting for about one day. Other than that| I have not had any long-lasting symptoms or concerns!

I hope that this information helps broaden your knowledge about the different types of contraception that are available| other than birth control pills. Again| if you have any questions about IUDs or want to determine if an IUD is a good option for you| you should take time to speak with your primary care physician or your OB-GYN.

DrSugar posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice| diagnosis| or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography