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

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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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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
Madamoiselle L

Kate, so you got pregnant WHILE using the Paraguard? EEEK!


On the contrary…I got pregnant TWICE on two different Paraguards. This Fertile Myrtle did not have infertility problems.