So You Want to Get an IUD?

How to Get an IUD and Are You a Candidate?

Cross section biomedical illustration of Intrauterine device (IUD) in position
Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

IUDs are a great birth control choice if you're looking for effective, long-term, reversible contraception. Currently, there are three types of IUDs that you can get:

  • Mirena - releases 52mg of the progestin levonorgestrel over a 5-year period.
  • Skyla - releases 13.5mg of the progestin levonorgestrel over a 3-year period.
  • ParaGard - the copper IUD that is hormone-free.

All three of these IUDs must be inserted into your uterus by a qualified medical professional.

How to Get an IUD (Mirena, Skyla or ParaGard):

Before getting an IUD, you will need to make an appointment with your doctor to see if Mirena, Skyla or ParaGard is the right contraceptive option for you. It is important that you honestly discuss your medical history and sexual lifestyle with your doctor because an IUD isn't right for all women.

Your doctor will most likely perform a pelvic exam to be sure that your cervix, vagina, and internal organs are normal and not infected. You may be also be tested for sexually transmitted infections, vaginal infections, precancerous cervical cells, or any other condition that needs to be treated before an IUD can be safely inserted.

If it is determined that you are a good candidate for an IUD, your doctor will most likely have you schedule an appointment for you to have your Mirena, Skyla or ParaGard IUD inserted. IUDs can be inserted at any time during your menstrual cycle (your doctor may conduct a pregnancy test to make sure that you're not pregnant) or immediately after a first-trimester abortion.

  • If you want immediate pregnancy protection (and not have to use a back-up birth control method), Mirena and Skyla should be inserted within seven days after your period begins. If inserted at any other time during your menstrual cycle, you will need to use another contraception method during the first week (7 days) after insertion.
  • ParaGard is immediately effective, so it does not matter where you are in your menstrual cycle when it is inserted.
  • Paragard can also be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse as a form of emergency contraception.

After your first period (or at least no longer than three months after your IUD insertion), you should schedule a checkup to make sure your IUD is still in place. After that, regular checkups can be done at the time as your periodic gynecological exam.

IUDs are not recommended for all women. You should not get an IUD if you:

  • Have had PID (unless you have had a normal pregnancy after this infection went away).
  • May be pregnant.
  • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding.
  • Get infections easily (due to immune system problems or intravenous drug use).
  • Have had a pelvic infection in the past three months following either childbirth or an abortion.
  • Might have cancer of the cervix or uterus.
  • Have more than one sexual partner, or a sexual partner who has more than one sexual partner.
  • Have an untreated pelvic infection or inflammation of the cervix.
  • Have a condition that changes the shape of the uterus (such as large fibroid or tumor).
  • Already have an IUD.
  • Have postpartum or post-abortion endometritis (inflammation of the uterine lining) in the past 3 months.
  • Have had, or are at risk of having, an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Are allergic to any of the components in Skyla or Mirena (such as levonorgestrel, silicone, polyethylene, silver) or ParaGard (such as copper).

Additionally, you should not get a Skyla or Mirena IUD if you:

You should also not get a ParaGard IUD if you:

Checking Your IUD Strings:

After you get an IUD, you will need to periodically check it's strings. Mirena, Skyla and ParaGard all have strings attached to the device that hang down through the cervix into the vagina. Depending on how short the strings are cut, you can make sure the IUD is in place by feeling for the strings. A doctor uses the strings to remove the IUD. Some woman may have the strings cut shorter if they are felt by your sexual partner. When this is the case, sometimes the strings are cut so short that you may not be able to check the strings.

You should feel for your IUD strings once a month, between periods. It is also a good idea to check every few days for the first few months after you get your IUD to make sure that it is still properly in place. That being said, one of the greatest advantages of the Mirena, Skyla and ParaGard is that, for the most part, once you get an IUD, you really don’t have to anything!


Cappiello J. Bosak J. "IUDs: Beyond the basics." The Nurse Practitioner. 2013; 38(9):40-46. 

Espey E. Pasternack T. "The Intrauterine Device." In Contraception for Adolescent and Young Adult Women. Springer: New York, 2014. 15-23.

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