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What Is the Mirena?

Why You Might Prefer a Mirena IUD Over the Pill

The pill, the patch, the ring — they're all great in theory, but if you constantly forget to take your pills or hate the waiting period for both the patch and ring, these might not be the best choices for pregnancy prevention. For a more long-term form of birth control, many women are using the Mirena.

What it is: The Mirena is a type of intrauterine device (IUD) that is placed inside your uterus by a health-care provider to prevent pregnancy for up to five years. It's a T-shaped piece of soft, flexible plastic less than 1.5 inches long that emits a small amount of progestin directly into your uterus (it's estrogen-free). There are two threads attached to the end that hang down out the opening of your cervix to help you check whether it's in the correct place.

Effectiveness: It's 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancy, but like the pill, it won't protect against STDs such as HIV. It is effective immediately if inserted within seven days after the start of your period, otherwise you'll need a backup form of birth control for the first seven days after getting the Mirena.

How it works: The small amounts of levonorgestrel (a type of progestin) released by Mirena thicken your cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering your uterus so they can't reach your egg, and thus can't fertilize it. It also thins the lining of your uterus, and may stop the release of your egg from your ovaries. In the unlikely event that a sperm does fertilize your egg and it survives, an IUD causes inflammation of the uterus making it harder for the fertilized egg to implant. To ensure the Mirena remains in place, insert a finger into your vagina, feel for the cervix, and check for the threads once a month.

Who should use it: Since this is a long-term form of birth control, it's recommended for women who aren't planning on having children for several years, are done having children, or don't want to have children. Since it doesn't offer protection against STDs, it's recommended for women who are in long-term relationships with someone they know is STD-free.

The pros: Insertion only takes a few minutes and it'll prevent pregnancy for up to five years. After a year of use, one out of every five users will have no period at all — think of all the money you'll save on pads and tampons! If you need birth control for longer than five years, you can choose to have another one inserted after the first one is removed. It's also easily reversible, which means if you decide you want to become pregnant, just have the Mirena removed and you can start trying right away. Since the hormones stay in the uterus, it won't cause significant weight gain like oral contraceptives sometimes do or increase breast tenderness.

The cons: Insertion can be very painful and can cause some women cramping, bleeding, and dizziness. Some women complain of irregular periods, spotting, and some have heavy bleeding for the first several months of use. IUDs also increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), although the percentage of women using the Mirena who develop PID is less than one percent. A rare life-threatening infection called sepsis could also occur within the first few days after Mirena is placed. The Mirena could also become embedded in the uterine wall, or even perforate it, and in either case, the user would no longer be protected from pregnancy, and the Mirena would need to be surgically removed. Another not-so-great thing about the Mirena is that since the threads hang down out the opening of your cervix, your partner may be able to feel them during intercourse.

How it differs from ParaGard IUD: The ParaGard contains copper and is completely hormone-free, so it won't interfere with your natural menstrual cycle. This is good news for women who don't want to take hormones and who like getting their monthly period to let them know they're not pregnant. Some women experience heavier periods or spotting while using the ParaGard, but this usually subsides after three months. Like the Mirena, it's also 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancy and is effective immediately after insertion, regardless of where you are in your cycle. The ParaGard, however, lasts twice as long as the Mirena, for up to 10 years.

How it differs from Skyla IUD: Another hormone-releasing IUD, it works just like the Mirena and is also 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancy. It's just over one inch, so it's slightly smaller than the Mirena and needs to be replaced every three years. Irregular spotting and periods may occur for the first three to six months, but after that, many women experience shorter, light periods or no periods at all.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / THEM TOO
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Bianka14624418 Bianka14624418 2 years
What about using a diaphragm? A hormone free and very safe form of birth control with absolutely no side effects!
Edugglec Edugglec 2 years
I had the Mirena for a year- one of the worst years of my life. No weight gain, you say?? I gained about 30 pounds, and am still struggling to get it off. It messed up my hormones, destroyed my sex drive (which affected my relationtionship) and caused me terrible, debilitating cramping. I am not saying this to scare anyone, I just think people need to be informed before spending money and altering their body's function hormonally. I had one friend who has It who loves it, it works great for her, and three other friends who've had it and have had it removed, mostly due to depression and mood issues, but also terrible acne was a large concern for one of them.
Angelique14746032 Angelique14746032 2 years
I've had Mirena for 5 years and LOVE it! No periods. I am planning on taking it out though and giving myself a break from Birth control in general.
suttonca81 suttonca81 2 years
I've had the Mirena for 3 years now. Having not had children and not planning on it (I'm now 32),it did quite hurt when inserted, and I had a lot of discomfort for about a month afterwards, but after 10 years on the pill with no sex drive, it was time to do something about it! It was the best option for me, as I'd originally gone on the pill to counteract very heavy periods anyway, and this has reduced them to only 1 day a month. The acne's back, but I imagine people with a better diet & exercise regime could combat that! Like any form of contraception, you've got to go with what works for you. If you've tried a few and they just aren't working, give this a try. It can be taken out if it doesn't work, but give it a few months to settle down first.
Cat3558573 Cat3558573 2 years
Mirena ruined my life. I developed severe ovarian cysts from this product (a side effect listed in their documentation now but it wasn't when I got mine in 2001), I lost my sex drive, and now sex is just plain painful. I have had trips to the oncologist because of the side effects of this horrible thing. There are several lawsuits around the country against this product for a reason. I strongly advise any of my friends considering it against it. It is terrible.
gdalestumps gdalestumps 3 years
I've had Mirena for 4 years now, I love it! Yes, it hurts when it gets put in. But it's like 20-30 seconds. Some doctors will give you a couple of pain pills to take home. I have not had a period in 3 1/2 years. My weight has gone down and my sex drive is up. Took about 2 years for the side effects of the pill wore off. I do have cystic acne now under my chin. It is normal for women in their 30's that are not on the pill. I take nature's cure and it is almost gone now.
RebeccaGrantham RebeccaGrantham 3 years
I had Mirena for 3 1/2 years and I hated it. I had so many problems from it. Last year I had it removed and I was off birth control for over a 1 year with no problems. A week ago I got back on and now I'm use paraguard and love it so far.
kenz626 kenz626 6 years
I am on a birth control that is taken four times a year, but has a high dose of hormones that are injected into my body. I usually had four to five day periods when I was not on birth control,and I am in my teens. My question is will Mirena cause vaginal dryness?? I know some birth controls have this side effect but I have not read anything about dryness about Mirena yet. An answer would be greatly appreciated.:)
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