Definition:The ParaGard Intrauterine Device (IUD) Copper T 380A is a small, "T-shaped" contraceptive device, about 1-1/4 inches wide by 1-3/8 inches long, made of flexible plastic and wrapped in copper. The ParaGard IUD must be inserted by a qualified healthcare professional (such as an ob/gyn or nurse practitioner). It is hormone-free, so it does not alter a woman’s natural menstrual cycle. The ParaGard IUD releases a tiny amount of copper (which acts as a spermicide) continuously over a 10-year period as a way to prevent pregnancy.
The Copper Found in ParaGard:Copper is an essential trace mineral that is naturally present in a person’s body and found in foods like whole grains, shellfish, leafy greens, and nuts. The small amount of copper that the ParaGard IUD releases each day is less than the amount contained in the average daily diet. The copper in the ParaGard IUD does not increase the overall level of copper already present in one’s body.
How It Works:The ParaGard IUD helps to prevent sperm from joining with an egg by interfering with the movement of the sperm toward the egg. It is also believed that the ParaGard IUD causes changes in the lining of the uterus to reduce the likelihood of implantation. ParaGuard provides pregnancy prevention immediately after it is inserted.
Disadvantages:Although most women do not experience any trouble adjusting to having an IUD, some women may have heavy bleeding and cramping during the first few weeks or months after insertion. However, doctors can prescribe medication that can lessen cramps and bleeding during menstruation.
It is not unusual for some spotting to occur between periods during the first few months of IUD use.
Some women may endure cramping or backache for several days or weeks after an IUD is inserted.
A woman’s first few periods after an IUD insertion may last longer, and the flow may be heavier. It is not unusual for a woman to have heavier and longer periods while using the ParaGard IUD.
Side Effects:Women may experience side effects, but in most cases, they will go away after the first few weeks to months. These include:
- Lower abdominal pain, cramps, and/or back pain
- Spotting between first few periods
- The ParaGard IUD may cause a 50 to 75 percent increase in menstrual flow, which for some women, may increase their risk for anemia
Serious problems with the ParaGard IUD are rare. It is critical to report any problems to your doctor right away to avoid further complications.
- Perforation: An IUD can, very rarely, be pushed through the uterus wall during insertion. Generally, this is discovered and corrected right away. If not, the IUD can move into other parts of the pelvic area and may damage internal organs. Surgery may then be needed to remove the IUD.
- Infection: Although there is some risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) associated with IUD use, the risk is small after the first 20 days following insertion. Generally, PID is sexually transmitted. You have a higher risk of getting PID if you or your partner have sex with multiple partners. Pelvic infection can be caused by bacteria getting into the uterus during insertion. Most infection develops within three weeks of insertion. Infection (due to the IUD insertion) after three weeks is very rare. Infection that occurs after this time is most likely due to exposure to STDs during sexual intercourse. Research shows that IUD use does not cause PID or infertility.
- Expulsion: ParaGard could partially or completely slip out of the uterus. This is more likely to happen in younger women, women who have never had a baby, and during the first few months of use (although it can also happen later on). If this occurs, you can become pregnant, so use a back-up birth control method and call your doctor. The ParaGard IUD must be removed if it becomes partially expelled. It is a wise idea to check your pads and tampons during your period to make sure that the IUD has not fallen out.
Who Should Use the ParaGard IUD:According to Duramed Pharmaceuticals, manufacturer of the ParaGard IUD, the FDA has approved hormone-free ParaGard for women throughout their entire reproductive lives - from age 16 until menopause.
The ParaGuard IUD is not recommended for women who:
- Have or may have a sexually transmitted infection
- Currently have an untreated pelvic infection
- Have an abnormally shaped uterus
- Have ever had pelvic inflammatory disease
- May be pregnant
- Are already using an IUD
- Have had a pelvic infection in the past three months following either childbirth or an abortion
- Get infections easily, including women with immune-system problems, leukemia, AIDS, or who abuse intravenous drugs
- Might have cancer of the cervix or uterus
- Have unexplained bleeding from the uterus
- Have Wilson's Disease
- Have more than one sexual partner, or a sexual partner who has more than one sexual partner
- Have, or may have, an allergy to copper
- Have had, or are at risk of having, an ectopic pregnancy
- Have a condition that changes the shape of the uterus (such as large fibroid or tumor)
Next Page: More on the ParaGard IUD: Increased Risk Factors, How To Obtain, Checking Your IUD, Removal, Costs, Effectiveness, and STD Protection