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 ParaGard 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.
Advantages of ParaGard:
- Can be used while breast-feeding.
- Does not alter or affect a woman's hormone levels.
- IUDs can improve a woman's sex life by allowing for spontaneity.
- It can provide continuous pregnancy prevention for 10 years and can be removed anytime within that 10 year period.
- A good alternative option for women who cannot tolerate or do not wish to use hormonal birth control methods or hormone IUDs (Mirena or Skyla).
- After removing the IUD, a woman’s ability to become pregnant returns quickly.
- Eco-friendly method of contraception.
- It is an extremely private and discreet birth control method. Nobody can tell if you are using it, and there is no packaging or other evidence of use that may embarrass some woman.
- Convenient and hassle-free – once inserted, you don’t have to do anything.
- An Extra Advantage: The ParaGard IUD can be used as a form of emergency contraception. If it is inserted within 5 days after unprotected intercourse, ParaGard can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 99.9%.
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 of ParaGard:
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 50-75% increase in menstrual flow, which for some women, may increase their risk for anemia.
Possible ParaGard Complications:
Serious problems with the ParaGard IUD are rare. It is critical to report any problems to your doctor right away to avoid further complications.
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.
Although some doctors (along with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) understand that the ParaGard IUD is safe and effective for young women, some doctors may still be unwilling to insert it in teens.
Removal of the ParaGard IUD:
- After 10 years are up, you must have the ParaGard IUD removed. You can choose to have another one inserted during the same visit.
- You can also have the IUD removed at anytime before the 10 year period ends.
- ParaGard must be removed by a doctor. You should not try to take it out yourself.
- If ParaGard is expelled, you may not even notice. This is why it is so important that you check for the IUD strings, so you know that your ParaGard is still there. If it has moved, you need to contact your doctor to have another one inserted. Your doctor will most likely perform a pregnancy test, to make sure that you are not pregnant, before inserting a new ParaGard IUD.
- If the ParaGard IUD has become partially expelled, it is important to call your doctor right away and use back-up birth control.
Costs Associated with ParaGard IUD:
If you plan to use birth control for at least 1-2 years, an IUD is the least expensive contraceptive option available. The one-time cost of ParaGard, in comparison to other contraceptive methods, could save you hundreds of dollars or more over time.
Medicaid may cover these costs. In general, the charges from family planning clinics will usually be less than private health care providers. You should check with your private health insurance policy as coverage for ParaGard should be covered with no out-of-pocket costs for all non-grandfathered insurance plans.
ParaGard is one of the most effective reversible methods of birth control available. The ParaGard IUD is 99.2-99.4% effective. This means that out of every 100 women who use ParaGard in one year, less than one will become pregnant with typical use as well as with perfect use.
Keep in Mind: The majority of pregnancies that happen to ParaGard users occur because the ParaGard has slid out without them realizing it. Though the chance of pregnancy while using ParaGard is very low, if it does happen, you should contact your doctor once you know you are pregnant.
STD Protection:ParaGard offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
Nelson AL. "The intrauterine contraceptive device". Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America, 2000 27:723-740. Accessed via private subscription.