2. INTRAUTERINE DEVICE (IUD)
What: A T-shaped device placed inside the uterus. IUDs can either be hormone-releasing (such as the Mirena) or coated in copper (known as the copper T or loop). Although fitting it is a non-surgical procedure, it has to be done by a medical professional. An IUD provides protection for three to 10 years, depending on the model, but can be removed at any time.
Need to know: Many women experience absent or significantly lighter periods with the Mirena, which works by thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering your uterus and fertilising the egg. It also thins the lining of the uterus, which usually builds up monthly, thus ‘reducing the chance of implantation of an egg and also reducing the frequency and volume of menstrual blood loss,’ says Dr Cardoso.
The Mirena releases levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of your body’s natural progesterone hormone. Dr. Cardoso recommends the copper T or loop if you like the idea of an IUD but are not keen on synthetic hormones.
It’s recommended that you do a monthly ‘thread check’ to make sure your IUD is still in place. Wash your hands and feel at the top of your vagina for the small removal strings that hang just outside the cervix. However, the chances of the Mirena being expelled in the first year are only between three and six percent.
Some men claim to be able to feel an IUD during intercourse, which can often be put down to their imagination. Our advice: don’t tell him about the threads. An IUD won’t move during sex because no matter how big he (thinks he) is, a penis cannot enter the cervix.
Cost: Between R500 (copper T) and R3 000 (high-end hormone IUDs) at a pharmacy. Price of insertion depends on your gynaecologist or GP.
• Long-term solution
• Can be used to reduce heavy periods,
or stop them altogether
• Low possibility of ectopic pregnancy
• There is the chance of infection (although it’s only 1% in the first 20 days, and 0.5% in the first six months) therefore not recommended for women who experience regular vaginal/pelvic infections.
• Currently fits uteruses of six centimetres or larger, although a smaller Mirena is due to be released this year