IUDs: Benefits and Risks of Using Mirena or ParaGard for Birth Control

IUDs: Benefits and Risks

What is an Intrauterine Device (IUD)?

IUDs are small T-shaped plastic devices that are are either wrapped in copper or contain small amounts of synthetic hormones. Once inserted into the uterus, they are highly effective at preventing pregnancy. There are several types of intrauterine devices. This article looks briefly at the two most popular brands, ParaGard and Mirena, as well as some of the known benefits and side effects of these devices.

The Good and the Bad: the benefits and negatives of IUDs at a glance


  • up to 99% effective in preventing pregnancy
  • generally considered safe for most women, including women who have already had children and those who are breastfeeding
  • one IUD lasts 5-10 years depending on the type
  • low or no hormones
  • requires no maintenance once inserted
  • cost effective considering length of effectiveness
  • can begin trying to conceive shortly after removal


  • despite long term cost effectiveness, upfront cost is high
  • needs to be inserted and removed by your doctor
  • does not prevent all pregnancies
  • 10% or more of women will experience expulsion of the device
  • does not protect against STDs
  • some women experience serious health issues from the use of an IUD, can be life threatening
  • some women feel uncomfortable with the device in their bodies, become ill from the hormones or copper and/or have emotional and mental side effects

Are IUDs Safe and Effective?

As with any birth control method, the safety and effectiveness of an intrauterine device should be researched carefully before choosing one for yourself. While many women swear by them as an easy to live with and low hormone approach to birth control, others have endured many physical and mental side effects from their IUDs.

Lawsuits have been filed against both Mirena and ParaGard after women experienced “spontaneous migration” of the IUD from the correct area of the uterus causing a variety of medical issues, some severe. And while IUDs have proven to be very effective in preventing pregnancy (up to 99%) women do become pregnant even with a properly placed device. Studies have shown that as many as 10% of women may also experience complete or partial expulsion of an IUD. The dangers and rates of malposition of the device, those of uterine perforation (known to happen in 1 out of 1000 women) and other side effects are explored in a recent study. Read it here.

Physical side effects are not the only concern, some women experience symptoms similar to pregnancy or PMS when using an IUD as well as unnerving emotional or mental reactions.

Still, IUDs may be a safer option than other birth control methods, such as a daily hormonal pill, and are generally safe for breastfeeding moms and those who were recently pregnant. Both ParaGard and Mirena claim to be 99% effective and their effectiveness is more predictable than some other birth control methods. And, for busy moms looking for something that is highly effective and easy to forget about, this may be the simplest and least limiting birth control option available.

How Much Do They Cost?

The upfront cost for an IUD is between $500 and $1000, depending on a variety of factors. This is a one-time cost for the life of the device (assuming you do not have associated medical issues), but you will need to pay for removal of the IUD when its effectiveness ceases or you are ready to begin trying for another child. Some women have removed IUDs on their own at home but this is not recommended by doctors. Both services are covered by most insurance policies, however, getting an appointment for insertion or removal can take months in some areas.

Although the initial cost may be prohibitive it is relatively low when the years of effectiveness (5-10) are factored in, especially considering that they require no maintenance or additional doctor visits for most women.

Below is a simplified breakdown of the two most well-known and used IUDs on the market. Before deciding to use an IUD, or choosing which one best meets your needs, considering asking the women in your life about their experiences and recommendations, doing additional research online, or reviewing the many discussions in the Mothering community on this topic.

Cross Comparison: ParaGard VS Mirena

ParaGard and Mirena are both intrauterine devices that are popular with Mothering moms for their ease of use and general effectiveness. And while both systems work similarly, there are major differences to consider. 

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />


  • claims to be more than 99% effective for up to 5 years
  • releases a synthetic form of progesterone (levonorgestrel) into your uterus to prevent pregnancy: partially prevents ovulation, thickens cervical mucas to prevent the entrance of sperm into the uterus and thins the uterine lining to prevent a fertizlized egg from attaching
  • uses a very low dose of hormones compared to oral contraceptives
  • will affect your normal menstrual cycle hormonally, sometimes dramatically
  • once removed, may continue to prevent pregnancy for weeks or months
  • can cause pelvic infections and uterine perforation, as well as reactions to the hormones
  • is considered safe for breastfeeding in most cases

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  • claims to be more than 99% effective for up to 10 years
  • is wrapped in copper and contains no hormones: disrupts sperm and the uterine lining to prevent pregnancy
  • may increase bleeding during your normal cycle but does not disrupt the cycle on a hormonal level
  • conception is possible almost immediately after removal
  • can cause pelvic infections and uterine perforation
  • is safe for breastfeeding

If you are trying to avoid hormones and plan to conceive another child quickly after removal, ParaGard may be a better solution than Mirena. Overall, if you are interested in an IUD, the best option will come down to your personal needs. You can find more details, including specific safety information, on the Mirena or ParaGard websites or from your doctor.

Interested in other types of birth control for moms? Check out this article on the most common and recommended methods.

This article is not intended to take the place of medical advice from a professional. Talking to a trusted doctor or midwife is the best way to gain accurate information about the use of IUDs. Mothering has no relationship with the companies that produce either Mirena or Paragard.

Have you used an IUD? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

26 thoughts on “IUDs: Benefits and Risks of Using Mirena or ParaGard for Birth Control”

  1. I used a ParaGard copper IUD for about five years because I was tired of hormonal birth control. My insurance at the time covered both the device and the insertion

  2. I had a Mirena IUD for 2,5 years. I had it removed, because I started to feel very crampy more and more often. It went from once a month around 2 years after insertion to once every three day. My OB said it was not possible, but the crampiness went away RIGHT after removal. And I have no crampy feeling on the Nuvaring either.

  3. I really appreciate hearing peoples’ experiences. Paragard was suggested to me because it ticked all the boxes of what I wanted. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around having something in there. I may still revisit the idea later.

  4. I had Mirena and it was the WORST thing I ever did to my body. The day after I had it put in I got a horrible yeast infection (after never having had a yeast infection before) that took ages

  5. I flat told the doctor that I refused any type of hormonal birth control because it made my emotions way out of whack. They highly recommended the Mirena to me due to some of my other health issues and I eventually decided to give it a try since it does have a very low dose of hormones. I have had it in for 1.5 years now. I would say that the most annoying thing for me was that I had spotting for about 6 months after insertion. I had to wear a liner every day just because I was never sure when it would happen. There was slight pain at insertion but I went about my regular business afterwards and was fine. Since the spotting has stopped, it has been wonderful. I’m not pregnant, I feel fine emotionally and I only have gotten my period 2-3 times in the last year. And I never have to think about it. So I feel pretty happy about the decision even though I wish I could afford to have another child….

  6. I had the Mirena removed after 5 months. I never got over the cramping and the bloating, and decided I would rather use condoms than be constantly in discomfort. I have a history of being sensitive to birth control, and I think that might be a good rule of thumb for others considering the IUD: If you are sensitive, the IUD probably isn’t a good choice for you.

  7. I am on year 2.5 with Mirena IUD after our two kiddos (we do not plan more), and I am very pleased with it. It did hurt a bit at insertion but nothing like baby birthing so I was ok with that, and it was over fast. Spotted for a few months, and since then only rare

  8. I had the ParaGard for nearly 3 years and got pregnant shortly after I stopped breastfeeding my older daughter. I would still recommend it (it was wonderful up until then), but I question the rates of effectiveness and I think it’s best to use another form of birth control also if you’re really concerned about getting pregnant. Luckily I was able to get it removed without any consequences and now I have a happy and healthy 8 month old. I got the Mirena

  9. #1 Truth about IUD’s (sadly not mentioned in this article) is that IUDs do not prevent conception (fertilization of the ovum by the sperm).

    1. I was going to say that too. Unfortunately, what they do not tell you up front about most types of Birth control, is that the hormones are supposed to keep you from ovulating, yes…But in case that fails, and you do ovulate (Which absolutely does happen from the women reported to get pregnant while on it) they make the womb inhospitable, so the fertilized egg…BABY…cannot implant. So its a very early form of Abortion. And you never even know it’s happened. Those times of random spotting or ‘periods’; they don’t happen for no reason. The lining of your uterus is shedding, possibly expelling a baby. I am NOT okay with that thought. It’s right there in black and white if you read the fine print. But so many women just follow what the Dr. says and miss that info. IUDs with no hormones just skip the whole prevention of ovulation and solely keep a fertilized egg from implanting. ALSO if you do happen to get a very determined baby, and do end up pregnant, removing the IUD or leaving it in are both extremely dangerous for both the child and for the mother.

  10. im surprised to see support for these in mothering. there are better, more natural ways (like fertilitycare!)

    my experience with mirena is that i naively had one placed, and then struggled for the next 4 years with anxiety, depression, and bad enough i had to seek treatment. very upsetting for someone like me who does not want to resort to drug treatment (they made me more anxious and nervous than the depression/anxiety did on its own)

  11. to be clear, when i said “ive read about” that means, i read personal testimony from the women who have suffered from the mirena. there are thousands of us. read data on iud experiences? paid by whom? what, should i go to the mirena website and read the experiences of women on there? as if the website would print a negative experience!

  12. I am happy with my ParaGard, especially since every woman in my family has had breast cancer by the time they were 43 (so *no* hormones now that we know the connection) and after years working in the ER I developed a latex allergy. I do have to get checked more regularly than many women, because I am sensitive to metals, so we keep a very close eye on my cervix and my skin tests to monitor my sensitivity. I have now used a ParaGard for 7 years with no problems, and chose to have a ParaGard reinserted after DS #2…even though I was one of the .3% who got pregnant with my first ParaGard after 5

  13. Melanie, could you please correct your statistic about expulsion? You say that ‘10% or more of women will experience expulsion of the device’. In fact, the article you link to gives the figures as 3 – 10% of women with one type of copper IUCD, and 6% of women with the Mirena. So that’s actually 10% or *fewer*, not more.

  14. I had Paraguard for about 2.5 years. I had it removed due to horrible MONTHLY yeast infections. I never had them before, so it was obviously related. Also, my husband could feel it during sex.

  15. Not mentioned in the pros/cons and something that is rarely mentioned when discussing IUDs is the religious/moral implications of how they work. For those who believe that life begins at conception and IUDs simply prevent the fertilized egg from implanting this is a major issue, but is rarely discussed and some women are even unaware of this. Drs often fail to inform their patients of this even though it could be a deciding point fit some.

  16. I got the Paraguard and found myself pregnant 7 months later. Turns out a couple times I was 1-2 weeks late and experienced heavy bleeding when I did finally get my period, later midwife told me I had probably conceived but it wasn’t able to attach. That happened twice while I had it and eventually did get pregnant, wouldn’t trade my surprise for the world now but if you are trying to not get pregnant I wouldn’t recommend an iud

  17. I have always been hesitant in introducing any foreign material in my body, it comes with high risks. I know of people that have used both Mirena and Paraguard and have experienced side effects. Mirena has caused heavy bleeding and occasional abdominal pain. My friend on Paraguard found the device moved, and now she cannot count on its effectiveness, and has been having to take hormone shots. My mother, who is an OB/GYN also does not recommends it. Infections due to IUDs still occur frequently.

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