By Toni Brannagan
IUDs are basically the new iPhone — everyone’s got one. But if you haven’t hopped onto the t-shaped bandwagon yet, it’s not too late!
The most important thing about choosing a birth control method is finding what works for *your* body. If it was as easy as one-size-fits-all, then there probably wouldn’t be so many different kinds (for the record, I still have an Android). When it comes to all forms of birth control, there are myriad factors to consider, and the same is true for IUDs.
Of course, the only people who can really make the decision are you and your gyno—okay, and realistically, your insurance provider—but let’s walk through each IUD on the market, some of their defining specs (see, it really is just like getting a new phone), and what a couple people have to say about their experiences using them.
Mirena (levonorgestrel dose: 52 mg)
Most people with hormonal IUDs, as a rule, will experience lighter and shorter periods—for a small percentage, they even go away entirely. Mirena, which lasts 5 years, was the first hormonal IUD on the market, and, to scale, is the largest. This, in part, has to do with its testing being exclusively performed on women who have children (after childbirth, the opening to your cervix is only sliiiiiightly larger, but when it comes to IUD insertion, those millimeters matter).
“I got the Mirena as sort of a last resort. I was on a regular birth control pill but had very erratic periods and this was the last option to stop the bleeding. The first 5 years were okay: no periods, no side effects. I had a new one immediately put in when the first one expired, and it was immensely different. I lost all sex drive, started gaining weight uncontrollably, and just generally felt off. I gave it about 2 years before deciding that it was time to take it out.” - Lane B.
"Just got my second Mirena! I was a migraine sufferer and my doctor suggested that my birth control pill could have been a cause. It has been a great switch!" - Alison G.
Liletta (levonorgestrel dose: 52 mg)
If you’ve been paying attention to the hormone levels next to each IUD, you may have noticed that Mirena and Liletta are twinsies. That’s because Liletta is literally the pharmacologic equivalent to Mirena (except it only remains effective for 4 years), but was developed to be more economically accessible to people who are receiving healthcare from family planning clinics, don’t have health insurance, or have low incomes.
“I’ve been on birth control since I was 18. One thing I was always really good at was forgetting to take my pill, no matter how many alarms I set for myself. So I finally decided to take real responsibility for my birth control/body and get the Liletta—though, it did take me a few months to convince myself to go. After hearing all the horror stories of IUD insertions from friends and acquaintances, I was prepared for the worst, but in all honesty, the insertion felt like nothing more than gas pains. I’ve had my IUD for over 1.5 years, and absolutely love it. Instead of getting a full-blown period each month, I spot during the timeframe it would normally be there, minus the sore chest and cramps.” - Lauren D.
“I’ve had my Liletta for almost a year with minor side effects. First, I didn’t want a hormonal IUD, but the copper IUD would have intensified my already excoriating cramps (ones that leave you out of commission for a day or so). The first month after insertion, I was acutely aware that there was an IUD inside me, which was somewhat painful, but it all receded for me after that. I now only spot with some cramps. Sometimes the cramps are intense, and the IUD sometimes affects the amount of discharge. All in all, it’s been a huge relief to not be in agony, not worry about pregnancy, and not have a period.” - Morgan K.
Skyla (levonorgestrel dose: 13.3 mg)
Lasting just 3 years, bc everyone knows millennials hate commitment (JK, it just has a low-dose of hormones), Skyla was also the first IUD that was marketed for women who haven’t given birth—meaning, the opening to your cervix is sliiiiightly smaller. Full disclosure: I don’t have any children and almost passed out during my Skyla insertion, so I’m very thankful for those teensy millimeters between Skyla and her big sis Mirena. (Another pro-tip while I have you here, I def recommend stocking up on some Thinx beforehand — you’ll be spotting for a while after the insertion and, no, you’re not allowed to use tampons!)
"I’m 5 months into my second Skyla. I love it because I’m in a long-term relationship and we’re not ready for kids. I love not having to remember to take a pill everyday. I hate that when I got them both inserted, I literally had to take off work the next day because of the cramping. I had terrible cramps for about a week the first time, but only about 3 days of cramps the second. I don’t get my period anymore, besides some minor spotting once a month." - Katie S.
"I had Skyla for 2 years. It was literally painless to get it inserted. Probably a combination of it being small and my OBGYN being very experienced and comfortable placing IUDs (she said she probably puts 5 or 6 in each day). Slight cramping in the beginning was the con. Over 8 months, my period became lighter and then stopped. I ended up removing it at year 2 because I felt like I was being a hormonal mess, but it actually turned out to be just stress." - Kara N.
Kyleena (levonorgestrel dose: 19.5 mg)
Releasing more hormones than Skyla, but fewer than Mirena, Kyleena stays effective for 5 years, which makes it perfect for people who are looking for long-term birth control. Since it’s even smaller than Skyla, it’s also a good option for people who haven’t given birth.
“After years of pills that destroyed my body and life, I got Kyleena and I haven’t felt this much like myself in 10 years. Pros: no periods, no depression, no nausea, no remembering to take a pill, no mood swings. Cons: my acne is so bad after going off the pill, and insertion was beyond awful, but the pain went away in about 2 hours." - Claire B.
"I've had Kyleena for 6 months. It's been great because I feel like my emotions are my own. I was on the pill for almost 10 years before that, and started to realize I wasn't myself. The ONLY downside was that I had a lot of spotting, and long periods during the first couple of months." - Anna O.
Paragard (levonorgestrel dose: none!)
This copper IUD might be the one for you if you’re concerned with hormones in your birth control. It also lasts for 10 freakin’ years! Some common side effects include heavier, crampier periods, which is why Paragard isn’t recommended for people with naturally heavy flows or endometriosis.
“I remember feeling overwhelmingly unprepared for the pain I experienced for the insertion. I do have my period every month, as well as cramping, which I did not get with other birth control methods. I like knowing that my body is healthy and doing exactly what it’s supposed to do, without being “told” what to do by hormones. I did begin to get painful cystic and hormonal acne after getting my IUD. I am happy to not have to take a daily pill, and I know my thoughts and feelings are always mine.” - Hayley F.
"Love it, best decision I’ve made. No issues outside of hormonal acne from going off the pill. Once you get the IUD, allow it time to “settle” in instead of freaking out and have it removed too soon. Your body makes adjustments and sometimes it’s easy to get paranoid thinking of a foreign object in you.” - Alexia K.
Do you have an IUD, or are you considering getting one? What has your experience been like so far, or what’s keeping you on the fence? Share your stories and concerns with us in the comments!