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Intrauterine Device (IUD) for Birth Control

British Columbia Specific Information

Birth control can help prevent pregnancy. There are many types of birth control available. Speak with your health care provider to help decide which type is right for you and your partner.

Hormone-based birth control contains hormones such as estrogen and progestin. Certain medications may make your hormone-based birth control not work properly or not at all. For more information, see HealthLinkBC File #91a Hormonal Contraception and using other medications at the same time.

Emergency contraception helps to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, or failed birth control. For more information about emergency contraception, see HealthLinkBC File #91b Emergency Contraception (EC).

Birth control cannot prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but using a condom will reduce your risk. For more information about birth control and sexual health, visit Options for Sexual Health and Smart Sex Resource. To learn more about STIs, see our HealthLinkBC Files - Sexually Transmitted Infections Series.

You may also call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse or pharmacist. Our nurses are available anytime of the day, every day of the year. Our pharmacists are available every night from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.

Topic Contents


The intrauterine device (IUD) is used to prevent pregnancy. It's a small, plastic, T-shaped device. Your doctor places the IUD in your uterus.

There are two types of IUDs. Hormonal IUDs release a type of progestin to prevent pregnancy for 5 years. Copper IUDs do not use hormones and prevent pregnancy for 10 years. In some cases an IUD can be used longer.footnote 1 Talk to your doctor about how long you can use your IUD. Once you have an IUD, you don't have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy.

The IUD usually stays in the uterus until your doctor removes it.

How well does it work?

The IUD is a highly effective method of birth control.

  • IUDs are more than 99% effective for preventing pregnancy.footnote 1 That means fewer than 1 out of 100 people who use an IUD as directed will have an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Most pregnancies that occur with IUD use happen because the IUD is pushed out of (expelled from) the uterus unnoticed. IUDs are most likely to come out in the first few months of IUD use, after being inserted just after childbirth, or in people who have not had a baby.

What are the risks?

Using an IUD is safe and rarely causes problems. But some possible problems include:

  • Menstrual problems. The copper IUD may increase menstrual bleeding or cramps. You may also have spotting between periods.
  • Perforation. This means the IUD passes through the uterine wall. Perforation is rare, but when it occurs, it's almost always during insertion. The uterus usually heals on its own after a perforation.
  • Expulsion. This means the IUD moves out of place. If expulsion occurs, it usually happens in the first few months of use. Expulsion is more likely when the IUD is inserted right after childbirth or in a person who has never been pregnant. If you think your IUD has been expelled, use a backup birth control method until you can see a health care provider.
  • Unplanned pregnancy. Rarely, an unplanned pregnancy happens, especially if the IUD moves out of place. If an unintended pregnancy occurs, the IUD needs to be removed right away.



  1. Ti AJ, et al. (2020). Effectiveness and safety of extending intrauterine device duration: A systematic review. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 223(1): 24–35.e3. DOI: 10.1016/j.ajog.2020.01.014. Accessed August 29, 2022.


Adaptation Date: 9/26/2023

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC