Breastfeeding and Birth Control: The Copper IUD

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What Is The Copper IUD?

An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a type of birth control that is placed inside the uterus. The copper IUD is a soft, flexible, T-shaped piece of plastic that contains copper. The copper, along with the shape of the device, works to prevent pregnancy by interrupting fertilization and implantation.

The copper IUD is also known as ParaGard.

Can You Use The Copper IUD If You're Breastfeeding?

The copper IUD is a safe and effective method of contraception for breastfeeding women.

It can be inserted right after delivery, or at your first postpartum doctor visit at approximately 4 to 6 weeks after the birth of your baby. The copper IUD does not contain any hormones, and it will not negatively affect your baby or decrease your supply of breast milk

The Insertion And Removal Of The Copper IUD

The IUD will be put into place by your health care provider. The procedure can be carried out right in your doctor's office. Some mild cramping and bleeding may occur during, and for a short time after the procedure. Ask your doctor if you can take an over the counter pain reliever such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin) one hour before your appointment to help make it more comfortable.

Once your IUD is placed, check the strings once each month to be sure it remains in place. Your doctor will advise you when to return for an examination. Typically you will see your doctor after one month, and then once a year after that.

 

The copper IUD can remain in place for up to 10 years, or you can have it removed sooner if you wish to get pregnant again. When it's time, it MUST be removed by a trained health care professional. You should never try to remove an IUD on your own. This could result in serious damage to your body.

The IUD can be removed in your doctor's office.

You may feel mild pain or cramping during the procedure. Again, talk to your doctor about taking a pain reliever one hour prior to lessen the discomfort. Once the IUD is removed, your fertility will return quickly. If you do not wish to become pregnant, you can have another IUD inserted during the same visit, or switch to another form of birth control.

The Advantages Of The Copper IUD

  • The copper IUD is 99% effective in the prevention of pregnancy. It is as effective as sterilization, but it is not permanent.
     
  • The copper IUD does not contain any hormones, and it's safe to use while you're breastfeeding.
     
  • It can be inserted within 48 hours of childbirth.
     
  • It is a long term birth control solution that can stay in place for up to 10 years.
     
  • It's easy. Once inserted, the only thing you have to do is check the strings once a month.
     
  • It is a reversible form of contraception. Once it is removed, fertility quickly returns and you can begin trying for another child.
     

The Disadvantages Of The Copper IUD

  • The copper IUD does not provide any protection against sexually transmitted diseases or HIV.
     
  • An IUD can move out of place or fall out of your body.
     
  • The copper IUD can cause cramping, heavier periods, and spotting in between periods.
     
  • Rare side effects include infection or a tear in the uterine wall. Both of these situations are dangerous and need to be resolved right away.
     
  • You should not use the copper IUD if you are allergic to copper.

 

While you're pregnant, talk to your doctor and your partner about your desire to breastfeed and your birth control options. Work together to make a plan that best fits your situation and your lifestyle.   

 

Sources:

Hale, Thomas W., and Rowe, Hilary E. Medications and Mothers' Milk: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology Sixteenth Edition. Hale Publishing. 2014.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

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