Dear Dr. Vanessa: What's the Low Down on IUDs? Part 1

illus. of Paraguard IUD via

Every few weeks, Dr. Vanessa Cullins, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood® Federation of America, will be answering your questions here. To ask her your own question, click here.

Dear Dr. Vanessa, I heard IUDs can cause infertility.  Is that true?

It’s a common myth, but it’s not true.  IUDs (intrauterine devices) — increasingly referred to as IUCs (intrauterine contraceptives) — are among the safest, most effective, and least expensive methods of birth control available.  In fact, they are the most popular form of reversible birth control in the world.  More than 85 million women use IUDs.

An  IUD is a small plastic device that a doctor can put in the uterus. One type — Paragard —contains copper and lasts for 12 years.  The other — Mirena — slowly releases a hormone and lasts for five years.  IUDs work by keeping sperm from joining with eggs.  They are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

The myth about IUDs and infertility started in the 1980s.  An insufficiently tested, defective brand of IUD — the Dalkon Shield — had to be removed from the market because of the damage it caused, including infections that led to infertility.  Today’s IUDs are safe, effective, and do not cause infertility.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) cause infertility, not IUDs.  If you have an IUD inserted while you have an STI, you increase your chance of infertility.   That’s why most clinicians test for STIs before inserting IUDs.

IUDs do not protect against STIs. That’s why women who use methods such as IUDs, hormones, diaphragms, sponges, or cervical caps need to protect themselves with condoms whenever there’s a risk of infection.


Best wishes for your good sexual health,

Planned Parenthood


Vanessa Cullins, MD, MPH, MBA, is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood® Federation of America.

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15 Comments on "Dear Dr. Vanessa: What's the Low Down on IUDs? Part 1"

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2 years 9 months ago

IUD’s are not safe! I had to go to the ER last Saturday night because I was in so much pain and found out my IUD Mirena is embedded in the lining of my uterus. If I dont get it removed zi was told I could become infertil. So this artical is not true. I am now on 5 different medications and have to get it taken out tomorrow but the obgyn. I have hospital records that say what happened to me. They took an ultrasound and everything. Now I am starting to contact lawyers to make a case against Mirena for what has happened to me.

4 years 4 months ago

Nancy I feel for you. That’s quite an ordeal… I’m glad both you and baby made it :)

I just wanted to point out that since your story sounds pretty scary to someone considering an IUD, IUD’s do not cause placentia previa. It could be interpreted from your story that they do.

I had an IUD for about three years. Loved it. Only cons were harder period cramps. Considering my psycho moments from the pill they were welcome.

I took the IUD out when my last boyfriend had a run-in with it. It scraped the tip of his penis during intercourse. Hated taking it out, but he refused to have sex with me until I did – understandably.

We had a baby since then and my pregnancy was perfectly normal and healthy. I highly recommend an IUD.

5 years 6 months ago

First of all I would like to say that yes, the IUD is one of the most effective contraceptives out there, but, there have been many women who have become pregnant while having one in place. I happen to be one of those women. I had the Mirena for a little over a year when I got pregnant(sometime in feb or march). First of all, I never would have imagined getting pregnant any time soon, second, I had no idea I was pregnant, I got my period for 4 months (while pregnant and with Mirena) I had gained only about 5 lbs. After the fifth month I started noticing a little bump, as if I was bloated all the time, it was tiny! So when my period didn’t come in July, I decided to pay the Dr a visit. He then told me I was a little over 5 months pregnant, and removed my IUD. I had no complications for the first couple of weeks. In one of our follow ups (August), we discovered I had placenta previa. He put me on bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy. Two weeks later (September), all I remember was sitting on my bed and feeling as if I was leaking, and thought my water broke, again (with my 1st pregnancy). As I reached down to make sure it was not a urine leak I saw BLOOD. I walked as fast as I could to the restroom and immediately called my husband to work. I felt so much blood come out and so many “chunks” I would say, it was the worst feeling. As I sat there crying I kept thinking it was a miscarriage. My husband rushed home and called the ambulance when he saw all the blood all over the restroom. Luckily, his brother(an EMT) was near by and wound up picking me up. When we got to the hospital, I was immediately sent to the ER. There they did an ultrasound and discovered my placenta had erupted. I had an emergency c-section. I was told both me and my baby had to stay in an ICU because I had lost almost half a liter of blood and there was a possibility we would not be, let’s say, living for long? Yes. I had several blood transfusions and was in an ICU for about a week. My baby got to come home a month later. We are both very healthy now, and I do not plan in getting any kind of IUD anytime soon. If you do decide to get an IUD have a talk with your OB about all the risks, factors, disadvantages, and possibilities in getting pregnant. I was that .2% who wound up pregnant and it was a very difficult time in my life. Now 8 months after I gave birth I’m being told it will be nearly impossible to get pregnant again. I was hoping for our first baby girl in 5 years. Well see where this takes me.— I am only 20 so age was a big part in my pregnancy. Sorry if I scared anyone with my story, it is not my intention. I only hope no one will have to go through what I did. My blessings to all who decide to get an IUD. Good luck(:

5 years 6 months ago

Ok, I have a paraguard, and i had it put in in November of 09, after the birth of my 2nd daughter in sept 09! It is now, may 2010, and i am seriously considering having my IUD taken out! I have had the most erratic periods ever! I use to only have a period once every 2mo or so,No i have periods that last 2-4weeks and are 2-3weeks in between! Not very comfortable.! I am not preg which is really the only good thing that has came from this! I havent really had any other symptoms, i have some wierd cramps once in a while, and went to hospital and was told everything looked great after a pelvic exam, and a ultra sound! so I dont know exactly what im doing yet! but i will say that yes, IUDs arent for everyone! DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!

5 years 7 months ago

Yep, not once but twice. I loved them when they worked though. And I thought “what are the odds that two will fail” when I decided to have the second one placed. Well my odds are 100% failure.

I don’t know if I’m extremely fertile or my lady parts just don’t work with the paraguard or what exactly happened. When the doc at PP pulled the IUD she said it was “really low” and not effective where it was at.

I don’t want to scare people away from the paraguard because I don’t think my experience is any where near typical. I grew up with a girl who’s mother got pregnant w/ all three of her children while on three different kinds of birth control; IUD, pill, and cervical cap. There isn’t a perfect solution.