Health

Yes, An IUD Can Totally Affect Your Period

It could get better — or not.

A person holds a pineapple in front of their crotch. Doctors explain how IUDs can affect your period.
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
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With a 99% effectiveness rate, more people are using IUDs for birth control. According to a 2015 study, health providers prefer IUDs more than any other birth control, and right after the 2016 election, Planned Parenthood reported a 900% increase in IUD demand — especially since it's free under the Affordable Care Act. And if you're considering getting one, you may be wondering how an IUD might affect your period. The answer is that it probably will, but it's difficult to predict exactly how.

To be able to get up every day and go about your life without having to think about popping a pill or replacing a ring once a month is a relief for many people. “There are a couple of great advantages to the IUD," Dr. G. Thomas Ruiz M.D., OB/GYN lead at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, tells Bustle. "One is the length of time they are effective — anywhere from three to 12 years depending on which system is chosen by the patient. They also have a high degree of effectiveness, a less than 1% failure rate, and they're always in place, so there is no forgetting."

But while the IUD can make life easier, it's not without its downsides. For starters, some people report pain or discomfort when it's inserted, while others report an increase in yeast infections because of the IUD. Then there are those who have complications, and have to have it taken out and re-inserted. However, an IUD is a saving grace for plenty of people with uteruses who want to be in charge of when they'll have kids, if they even want to have kids at all.

Having an IUD also affects your period; sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Here's what to expect when it comes to the effects an IUD could possibly have on your period.

1

Your Period Could Stop All Together

If you would like to kiss your period adieu, then you may be in luck. An IUD just might be able to let you do that, so start planning that goodbye party now.

"There are two types of IUD: hormonal IUDs, which slowly release a hormone called a progestin that helps to prevent pregnancy, and the copper IUD, which contains copper that has spermicidal properties," Dr. Jonathan Schaffir M.D., an OB-GYN at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Bustle. "Although the amount of progestin differs in different types of hormonal IUD, these IUDs generally will reduce the amount of blood flow at the time of menses." The more progestin your hormonal IUD releases, the more likely you are to see periods vanish over time, he says.

2

Your Period Could Get Lighter

Some people might react to a hormonal IUD by getting a lessened period than they had previously, particularly on IUDs with lower progestin levels.

"The Skyla has less progesterone which allows most women to have menstrual cycles, although they are usually very light," Dr. Prudence Hall, M.D, founder of The Hall Center and author of Radiant Again & Forever, tells Bustle.

"Progesterone IUDs are particularly useful in people with heavier painful menses," Dr. Ruiz tells Bustle. "Within three to six months of insertion up to 50% will not have menstrual bleeding and the other 50% will have lighter, less painful and less frequent uterine bleeding."

3

Your Period Could Get Heavier

Should you choose the copper IUD, which doesn't have any hormones, you might find your periods start ratcheting the intensity up to 11. "Copper can irritate the uterine lining and cause periods to be slightly heavier than usual, especially in the first year of use," Dr. Schaffir says.

4

Your Menstrual Cramps Might Get Worse

If a heavier flow isn't annoying enough, a copper IUD like can also take your cramps to a whole new level. "[People may experience] more menstrual cramping than prior to the Paragard placement," says Dr. Hall. This is also pretty standard in the first year, Dr. Schaffir says.

5

Your Period Is Likely To Be A Little Messed Up At First

No matter which IUD you choose, don't expect the transition to be totally smooth-sailing after it's been inserted. "With both types of IUDs, women can experience spotting or irregular menses for the first three to six months after IUD placement," says Dr. Hall. So definitely stock up on pantyliners or period underwear (or your favorite stain remover).

Because the type of IUD you have has everything to do with how it will affect your period, it's important to be aware of how your body works and what's going to be the right IUD choice for you (if it's even the best birth control for you). For example, if you already have heavy bleeding and cramps from hell, you probably don't want to even consider Paraguard as an IUD option.

"If a woman already has very heavy menses and cramps, the Skyla IUD is perhaps a better option," says Dr. Hall. "If a woman has normal cycles, I prefer recommending the Paraguard, because maintaining our healthy natural hormones has great benefits."

As with all methods of birth control, it's crucial to do your IUD research, be honest with your doctor about what you need and want, and proceed from there.

Experts:

Dr. Prudence Hall M.D.

Dr. G. Thomas Ruiz M.D.

Dr. Jonathan Schaffir M.D