Paragard is frequently used for long term contraception, but this does not mean the device will be useful for everyone. All forms of birth control have risks and considerations that will need to be addressed before use. Your health care provider can help you determine if Paragard will provide the results you desire and teach you how to minimize these concerns.
What is Paragard?
Paragard is an IUD or intrauterine device which is used for long term birth control. The T-shaped device is made of plastic wrapped around copper wiring that will allow it to sit in the uterus. The inflammatory reaction the device causes is toxic for sperm and also prevents the egg from implanting in the uterus.
What are Benefits of Paragard?
- Paragard provides reliable, long term contraception which can be used for up to 10 years.
- The device can be removed at any time without requiring a long wait before your fertility will return.
- This treatment does not carry the same risk that hormonal treatments do and can be used during breastfeeding without putting your child at risk.
- In addition to providing planned contraception benefits, Paragard can be inserted up to five days after you engage in unprotected sex to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
- The use of this device has also shown to decrease the patient's risk for developing endometrial cancer and some studies indicate that it may be useful in preventing cervical cancer as well.
Is Paragard Proper for Me?
Some conditions may limit your ability to use Paragard.
- Those with uterine abnormalities may not be able to wear the device as it will not sit properly.
- Certain conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, a pelvic infection, cervical or uterine cancer can also limit your ability to use Paragard safely.
- Those who frequently exhibit unexplained bleeding or conditions that cause an excessive amount of copper to accumulate in the vital organs may be at risk for developing complications while using the device.
- Talk with your doctor about any STDs you may have or be at risk for as these can limit your ability to use Paragard.
- You may also not be able to insert the device if you have just had an abortion or given birth.
What are Risks of Paragard?
Like all forms of birth control, you will need to be conscious of potential side effects before you begin to use Paragard.
- Common side effects associated with the use of this device include backaches, cramps, bleeding between periods, anemia, pain during sex, inflammation of the vagina, vaginal discharge and severe menstrual symptoms. These symptoms typically dissipate within 2-3 months of using Paragard.
- Less than one percent of users get pregnant during their first year of using Paragard. You will also be at a higher risk for developing an ectopic pregnancy while using this device.
- Those who have never been pregnant, are prone to severe menstrual pain, have prolonged or excessively heavy periods or are under the age of 20 are at a high risk for developing the device.
- If you have recently had an abortion or given birth your risk of expelling your IUD is higher as well, particularly if you have expelled an IUD in the past.
How to Prepare Before Insertion of Paragard
- You will need to undergo a pelvic exam before you can have an IUD inserted. This will help your health care provider determine if there are any outstanding risks that could prevent your experience form Paragard from being successful.
- You may need to have an examination to rule out the presence of an STD or pregnancy before your doctor can insert the device.
- If you have been using another birth control method you will need to stop and allow it to clear your system before you can start using Paragard.
- The device can be inserted any time during your menstrual cycle and while you are breastfeeding.
- Those who have irregular periods may need to talk with their doctor about an appropriate time to insert the device.
- It is recommended that patients take a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) approximately two hours before their appointment to reduce any discomfort or cramping that may occur.
What are the Procedures of Insertion of Paragard?
You must visit a health care professional to have Paragard inserted. Your doctor will insert a speculum into the vagina to clean the cervix and surrounding area with an antiseptic. Then the uterine cavity and cervical canal will be aligned with a device and the depth of this space will be measured. This will allow them to determine where the device will need to be inserted.
When it comes time insert the Paragard device, the doctor will fold down the horizontal arms and place the IUD in the applicator tube, which is then inserted in the vagina. This will be used to gently slide the device into the proper position in your uterus. After the device has been placed the strings will be trimmed to avoid them protruding past a safe point in the vagina and the applicator will be removed.
When to Remove Paragard
You can have Paragard removed at any time. If you decide to have the device removed, visit your health care provider. They will use a pair of forceps to grab the protruding strings and gently pull the device out of place. It is common to experience spotting and cramping after the device is removed.
If the device has become embedded in your uterine wall, you may need additional medical attention to remove the device safely. This may include the application of anesthesia, cervical dilation or a hysteroscopy depending on the location of the device and the severity of the situation.
If you are showing signs of being pregnant, you notice a vaginal discharge with a foul odor, you have severe abdominal pain, heavy vaginal bleeding or an unexplained fever something may be wrong with your Paragard device. If these side effects occur or you have bleeding after sex, pain during sex, breakthrough bleeding, the strings of the device are noticeably longer or shorter, or you can feel a part of the device in your cervix or vagina you should contact your health care provider immediately to determine if the device needs to be reinserted or removed.