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Mothering › Pregnancy Articles › Iuds Benefits And Risks Of Using Mirena Or Paragard For Birth Control

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

 

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 in 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

 

Benefits

  • 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 

 

Negatives

  • despite long term cost effectiveness, upfront cost is high
  • needs to be inserted and removed by your doctor and appointments can be hard to get
  • 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. 

 

 

Mirena

  • 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 or the hormones
  • is considered safe for breastfeeding in most cases

 

 

ParaGard

  • 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.

 

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

Comments (24)

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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—I only pai a $20 copay! It was a bit tricky for me to find a doctor willing to insert it since I've never been pregnant, and insertion was quite painful, but then I didn't have to worry about contraception for up to 10 years! The chances of perforation or migration are very, very small. I just had it removed because we're trying to conceive. I highly recommend IUDs.
I had a Mirena IUD for 5 years.  I had it removed when it expired and was hoping to conceive our first child after that, which happened for me on my second cycle after removal.  I never had a period the entire time I had the Mirena (which I loved!) and had no noticeable side effects. Insertion was painful but the pain only lasted about 10 seconds and then I went back to work (I had inserted on my lunch break) and had a few cramps for a day or two afterwards as it settled it but after that I never noticed that it was there. I also only payed my $25 co-pay.  Removal was super easy and took my doctor just a second. I highly recommend IUDs and will get another one after my baby is born.
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.
I just had the Paraguard inserted in April. Mine was a $15.00 co-pay for a standard office visit, everything was covered by insurance. The insertion was painful only briefly, but I did have some cramping for a couple days, nothing more though than some other period cramps I've had over the years.

The worst thing for me, though, was that the first three cycles after insertion were extremely painful. This was beyond the cramping associated with a period, it felt like an alien trying to rip me out from the insides. At one point during the second cycle I was on the verge of going to the ER to have it checked, because the pain was so bad I thought something may have gone wrong, such as a perforation, etc. I also felt close to passing out for a couple of days and took some pain relievers. After doing research online, I found several other women describing the same thing, and that it eventually went a way after 2-4 cycles, so I just buckled down and got through it.

The third cycle was still quite painful, but less so than the second. By the fourth cycle I had only very mild and sporadic cramping, but the flow was erratic. A couple days thinking I was over it with only light spotting, then I'd suddenly have a heavy flow for a couple days, then a day or two of "regular" flow, then nothing, then heavy...for a couple of weeks.  

The 5th cycle was completely normal and uneventful. Little to no cramping, typical flow and length of cycle for me. I'm now starting the 6th cycle and everything seems normal so far.

For the price and convenience and my health issues, I felt this was the best choice for me, due to the fact that there are no hormones or any other sorts of medications involved.
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.
I became pregnant with the Paraguard implanted in its proper place.  It was the most terrifying thing.   I had a very high risk of ending the pregnancy by removing the IUD or a high risk of a spontaneous 2nd trimester miscarriage if leaving it in.  I chose to remove the IUD after seeing that it was separate from the pregnancy on ultrasound and everything worked out fine.  My IUD baby is my wonderful, healthy 2-year-old.  But, I, obviously, do not recommend an IUD.  It worked for about a year, but I was breastfeeding, so I don't know if it worked at all.  Look into the rhythm method if you may want kids in the future and tubal ligation if you don't.
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 to go away. 
I suddenly had horrible mood swings and severe depression, I put on 15 pounds, I lost half of my hair (not exaggerating) and my menstrual cramps became unbearably painful with huge blood clots. And I experienced several vaginal infections so bad they landed me in the hospital. 
After begging my Doctor to take it out (they forced me to wait 3 months) my symptoms started going away immediately.  
I would not recommend Mirena to anyone- particularly women who are sensitive to other forms of birth control.
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....
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.
I chose the Paraguard because it has a higher effectiveness rate than even tubal ligation does!  And it's much simpler to do!  It did hurt putting it in--I recommend anyone getting the procedure done to take some pain killers before the visit.  (But anything is better than getting pregnant again!) 
 
I have had the Paraguard for almost a year now.  The only side effect it caused me was really heavy flow on my periods, which *may* (we are not certain) have led to my anemia.  However, I finally found out that I can take ibuprofen once or twice a day the week before my period starts, and that brings down the flow.  Apparently, an IUD increases inflammation, which is what causes the heavy flow, and ibuprofen decreases inflammation.  Simple and safe.  Taking ibuprofen 7 days out of the month isn't going to hurt anyone.  (WHY didn't they tell me this when they inserted the Paraguard???)  So my flow is back to normal, and I have no other side effects.
 
I'm happy with it, overall.  Still, though, I shouldn't have to remind people that there is always that 0.3% chance that you will be the one who gets pregnant on it.  So ALWAYS use at least TWO forms of birth control--one for you, one for him!!--to bring your odds to zero!  I'm paranoid, yes, because I absolutely can't afford to get pregnant again!
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 random spotting and NO PERIOD, which I love. No mood swings, or cramping etc. I had tried other types of BC but this is by far the easiest and best for me. I will get another when the time comes. The trickiest thing about Mirena IUDs seem to be there's no way to really tell who among us will love them, and who won't, and it can be expensive (like others, I only paid about 10% of the total and office visit, insurance got the rest). 
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 after she was born, based on my midwife's recommendation that it might be more effective for me and doing research on all of my other options.. Still not sure if I really like it, there definitely seem to be more side effects than the ParaGard, but I'm worried that other methods won't work for me. 
I had the Mirena for 4.5 years, just recently had it removed to conceive our 2nd child.  It was removed on 10 May 2013, I had a period on 22 June 2013 and a BFP on 28 July 2013.  Despite only hearing terrible stories, I had a very good experience and will likely get it again after this baby.
 
I need hormonal birth control to control crazy painful periods, so I went back on the pill after baby #1. Due to a newborn and an out of it mama, I couldn't remember to take my pills on time, so I was worried about conceiving before we were ready.  After talking with my OB, we decided to try the Mirena, and I actually never had a period after the birth of my son (we were breastfeeding) and I never got one on the Mirena.  The period I had about a month after it was removed was incredibly painful and heavy and I was so glad I only had one before we had a BFP.
 
The string did migrate into my uterus, because I didn't realize I was supposed to check it monthly. I did have to have the string clipped a little shorter a few months after insertion because I could feel it inside.  After that, I had no issues.  My OB said the string migrated, but not to panic, and within seconds she found the string and proudly removed it.
 
My experience was positive, and I would do it again, but with any medical device, your mileage may vary.  I'm glad to see a balanced discussion here with both positives and negatives to help women make the decision that is right for them.
#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).  Conception occurs, and then the IUD prevents the newly formed BABY from implanting in the uterine wall.  This is technically aborting your own child each month one is conceived!!!  I'm disappointed in Mothering for not revealing the whole truth.
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)
 
also hair loss, itchy scalp, dry skin, and other random things. progesterone is important to your bodies ladies, and if you arent interested in making your life MORE difficult, you need to avoid any form of hormonal birth control. ive read about women who have become permenantly bipolar from this. or infertile. we struggled for 11 months after removal to get pregnant, and only got pregnant after getting a progesterone shot. then to make sure the pregnancy would hold, they gave me another "emergency" progesterone shot when i found out i was pregnant. 
 
if i knew i would have to suffer with depression and anxiety for 4 years i would never have gotten the mirena. 
I've had Mirena for 4 years.  Absolutely no problems, no emotional problems, no stress; added bonus is no menstral period :)  I highly recommend this method. I suggest looking at actual, current data on womens' experience with IUD - not "I heard about some women who..." - that is not data, it's hearsay.
 
Also, I don't see what's so horrible about preventing the implantation of a newly fertilized egg every time one is conceived.  If the egg isn't fertilized, it's killed anyway...and what a waste of all those spermies in the world that get wasted.  A fertilized egg is not a child.
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! 

i experienced negative effects. glad you didnt. i talked to a friend ive known for 10 years the other day, she experienced the same thing when she had a tubal done. she had it reversed because the effects of her body not giving off normal natural hormones was so bad. 
 
dont even get me started on a fertilized egg not being a baby. how on earth does it get to be a baby if a fertilized egg isnt a baby? when on earth do you think life begins? i suppose that this is the whole abortion conversation.... and no one will ever agree on this, but one thing is very clear to me: life doesnt begin with a thing that is human in appearance. life begins when the egg and sperm complete their connections. especially for me, who had an early miscarriage, life begins when it begins! you cant get the baby without the fertilization! a non fertilized egg is disposed, not killed. do you kill an egg when you eat eggs? no. but if you crack open a fertilized egg, everyone would agree you killed a baby chick. well, maybe not everyone. 
 
you're entitled to your opinion. but i and many others disagree. saying that its not horrible to YOU does not mean its not horrible  to me, and man others. just trying to be clear.
My daughter has plenty of friends who were conceived while their mothers wore an IUD.  I have plenty of infertile friends who developed scar tissue in their uterus from an IUD.  My husband tells me that men can feel the string that hangs out of the cervix into the vagina during sex. 
 
And, my family doctor tried to push an IUD on me before I ever had children, so some doctors do not bother to read the instructions; I reminded him of this fact, and he ignored me, saying that "this IUD is special".
 
These are the negatives I never hear or read in discussions about any IUD.
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 years. 
 
I miscarried before we were able to remove the ParaGard, but I have lost 6 babies, and we lost DS #2's twin sister, so I don't blame it on the ParaGard. I get pregnant on birth control, all but DS #2's pregnancy was conceived while on birth control. I am a fertility goddess, and am Blessed that the children knew that it was not a good match...and they chose to wait until another time. Women may disagree with this mindset, but it keeps me sane and reduces my guilt. I strongly believe a soul picks the parents, and sometimes the soul only needed a few months experience to learn/accomplish their goals, and sometimes they need an entire lifetime. 
 
I recommend doing a lot of research, because this is a personal experience/decision. ParaGard works great for me, but I have a client who has asked me to share: Beware of where you purchase from. Her ParaGard broke inside of her, perforated her uterus, and she is still going through reconstructive work to remove scar tissue, and chelation therapy for the copper. So yes, as with any medical procedure there are risks (she is positive she got a faulty IUD while living in Ecuador).
 
There are also benefits, such as for me only one pregnancy (out of 8) on an IUD versus 5 on birth control pills (before the link between hormones and breast cancer were explained to me). Ultimately, it is your body, so it needs to be your choice. But my partner has no problem with the string, I did have heavy periods for ~4 months after insertion, and I have had no mood swings but some cramping. (I will now be trying a glass of wine, which also has anti-inflammatory properties but none of the chemical effects of ibuprofen). For me it is wonderful, for others it might not be....
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