Digital drawing of IUDs on a green background

Hormonal vs. Non-hormonal IUDs

Long-term Birth Control Options

There are different types of IUDs (intrauterine devices) on the market. Picking the right option may seem tricky, so we’ve made the process easy for you with our guide to the different types of IUDs currently available.

An IUD is one of the most popular types of birth control. It’s a tiny, T-shaped device that’s inserted into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are long-term, reversible and considered 99.9% effective.

Who Would Benefit From Using an IUD?

Sexually active women who don’t want to get pregnant would benefit from using an IUD. There are two main types of IUDs: hormonal and non-hormonal (the latter often referred to as copper IUDs), and both are effective at preventing pregnancy.

If you’ve previously tried birth control pills or other hormonal methods and experienced problematic side effects, you might benefit from trying a non-hormonal IUD.

People will heavy menstrual bleeding may also be recommended IUDs that can decrease the intensity and frequency of periods; this is more commonly seen in hormonal IUDs.

Different Types of IUDs

Both copper and hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm cells from reaching an egg, which stops pregnancy from occurring.

Every type of IUD lasts for years but they aren’t permanent. If you want to try for a baby or simply want your IUD taken out, a doctor or nurse can easily remove it. You’ll be able to get pregnant right away after removal.

The Paragard, Mirena and Liletta IUDs also work well as emergency contraception. If you have one of these types of IUDs inserted within five days of unprotected sex, it can be up to 99% effective, even more effective than the morning-after pill.

Hormonal IUDs

The most common hormonal IUDs are Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta and Skyla. These IUDs prevent pregnancy in two ways using hormones.

  • They thicken the mucus on the cervix, which traps sperm and blocks its journey.
  • They can also stop eggs from leaving your ovaries in the first place (ovulation), which prevents the possibility of pregnancy. If this happens, you don’t experience periods.

The effect of hormonal IUDs on your period is unpredictable. Many women experience lighter, less frequent periods, and 20% of women stop having periods altogether after one year of using Mirena.

Pros of Hormonal IUDs

  • The device is tiny, so you shouldn’t feel it in your body.
  • Hormonal IUDs are incredibly effective.
  • The devices work for years. Hormonal IUDs only need to be replaced every 3–10 years.
  • IUDs are easily removed if you want to reverse your decision.
  • IUDs are low maintenance—you don’t have to remember to take a pill or carry anything with you.

Cons of Hormonal IUDs

  • The effect on your periods is unpredictable. You may continue having periods, or you may cease ovulation, and menstruation, entirely.
  • IUDs must be inserted and removed by a medical professional.
  • IUDs don’t protect you from STDs.
  • Occasionally, IUDs can slip out of place.

Non-hormonal IUDs

The best-known non-hormonal IUD is Paragard. Paragard doesn’t use hormones to prevent pregnancy. Instead, the copper material prevents pregnancy.

Sperm doesn’t like copper, so the Paragard IUD makes it extremely unlikely for sperm to reach and fertilize eggs.

The copper coil doesn’t stop ovulation, so you’ll have periods while using this IUD. For some people who menstruate, their periods become heavier for the first few months while using the copper device before calming down.

Pros of Non-hormonal IUDs

  • Copper IUDs are long-term and can stay in place for up to 12 years at a time before being replaced.
  • The copper IUD works immediately upon insertion.
  • Copper IUDs are one of the only non-hormonal approaches to birth control, so it’s a great option if you’ve experienced negative side effects from hormonal contraceptives.
  • Non-hormonal IUDs are incredibly effective.
  • The device is so small you won’t feel it in your body.
  • IUDs are low maintenance—you don’t have to remember to take a pill or carry anything with you.

Cons of Non-hormonal IUDs

  • IUDs must be inserted and removed by medical practitioners.
  • The copper IUD makes some women’s periods heavier during the first few months.
  • IUDs don’t protect from STDs.
  • Occasionally, IUDs can slip out of place.

The Bottom Line

Every type of contraceptive has pros and cons, and IUDs are no different. The advantages of IUDs are plentiful: they’re effective, long-term, reversible and easy to remove.

That means if you change your mind about pregnancy or the device causes unpleasant side effects you can easily have it removed. From removal onwards, your fertility shouldn’t be affected.