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Pros and Cons of IUDs For Birth Control: ParaGard vs. Mirena

One Doc's Personal Experience With an IUD

Birth control is always a hot topic, especially IUDs. Questions prevail about Mirena and ParaGard, so here is a comparison of these two popular IUDs from a board-certified physician. She even explains her personal experience with this form of contraception.

To continue our ongoing series of gynecological topics, I have decided to write about intrauterine devices (IUDs) as a form of birth control. Even though I learned about IUDs through many outlets (sex ed in school, medical school), I decided to research them more thoroughly since the birth control pills I started taking after having my baby negatively affected my milk supply. I had to find an alternate mode of contraception so I could continue to have an abundant milk supply for my little one. I had a ParaGard (copper) IUD inserted a couple of weeks ago and I'll share my experience as well as more information about two types of IUDs in today's column!

IUDs are small T-shaped devices that are inserted into a woman's uterus to prevent pregnancy. Currently there are two FDA-approved IUDs. The ParaGard, made out of copper, is a nonhormonal type of IUD and can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years after insertion. You may be wondering how it prevents pregnancy, since it's nonhormonal and nonbarrier. According to WebMD, copper is toxic to sperm. The ParaGard also makes the uterus and fallopian tubes produce fluid that kills sperm. However, if fertilization of an egg does occur, this IUD keeps the fertilized egg from implanting on the wall of the uterus. Other benefits of ParaGard include removal at any time with a quick return to fertility, decreased risk of endometrial cancer, it can be used while breastfeeding, and it doesn't carry the risks that hormonal birth control has.


Mirena is a hormonal IUD and is the only FDA-approved hormonal IUD. Mirena can be used to prevent pregnancy for up to five years. WebMD reports that Mirena prevents fertilization of an egg by damaging or killing sperm and making the mucus in the cervix thick and sticky so sperm have a hard time getting through to the uterus. It also keeps the lining of the uterus from growing very thick, which makes the lining a poor place for a fertilized egg to implant and grow. Mirena also partially suppresses ovulation due to the hormones in the IUD. The hormones in Mirena also reduce menstrual bleeding and cramping. A surprising fact about Mirena is that it can also reduce the chance of developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

According to the Mayo Clinic, ParaGard can cause cramping, severe menstrual pain and heavy bleeding, nausea, backache, and painful sex. Mirena has different side effects that include headache, acne, breast tenderness, irregular cycles at first followed by a possibility of lack of menstrual periods after one year of use, mood changes, weight gain, nausea, ovarian cysts, and abdominal or pelvic pain. Both Mirena and ParaGard also carry the possibility of getting dislodged and expelled from the body. Neither IUDs protect against sexually transmitted infections.

In my own personal experience, the actual insertion of the ParaGard IUD was not painful, but this may have only been because my OB-GYN numbed my cervix with local anesthetic (which was actually quite painful in and of itself!). After the procedure, I had mild cramping for about three days and light spotting for about one day. Other than that, I have not had any long-lasting symptoms or concerns!

I hope that this information helps broaden your knowledge about the different types of contraception that are available, other than birth control pills. Again, if you have any questions about IUDs or want to determine if an IUD is a good option for you, you should take time to speak with your primary care physician or your OB-GYN.

DrSugar posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography
Join The Conversation
passion3flower1406908492 passion3flower1406908492 2 years

There's a very informative site with lots of information on how to
lose weight and get rid of the mirena iud side effects and find other natural
birth control options. Check out:
Her detox has also been immensely helpful to my recovery and I seriously
recommend it

DaniNSxoxo DaniNSxoxo 3 years
I have Paragard and I actually love it. I also have FV Leiden. For the first six months or so it has to "settle" so periods are heavier, longer, and cramps are worse. After the first few months I actually don't really have cramping in between periods and though my period, though they are still longer than they used to be, but never longer than a week. I never have to worry about a pill or hormones and I haven't had pain with sex so that's always a plus! every once in a while it has to "settle", but that is just slight slight cramping and only lasts for a few moments. I hope this helps anyone who is interested in getting an IUD!
Kaci2658600 Kaci2658600 5 years
I had Mirena for a year and it was a nightmare. I had sever pain and tons of cramping. when we finally had it removed I had sveral yeast infections that i couldn't get rid of.. then we discovered it had made me allergic to latex so even useing condoms caused sever pain. I am wanting to try\u00a0a new birth control and am considering paragard hoping that my body won't react like it did before. \u00a0 One thing in worning to any woman who is considering any kind of iud, If they tell you your uterus is to small don't have them put it in. we are pretty sure that is why I had so much trouble. maybe i will have better luck next time
aasmith591 aasmith591 5 years
 @brittrose Well your hormones and you immune system are to entirely different things and two entirely different systems in your body so I don't see how your hormones could be "compromising you immune system". And using a contraceptive like an IUD or birthcontrol pills actually decreases your risk for a lot of cancers like ovarian and uterine cancer. And they don't use the hormone estrogen they use the hormone progestin. Plus if they were so dangerous then why are millions of people using them?
brittrose brittrose 5 years
Yes all these birthcontrols you are compromising your immune system and they cause all sorts of cancers putting more hormones in your body your body goes into over load of man made hormones made in labs thats the leading cause of breast cancer when your estrogen levels are too high. Your body makes the hormones it needs already and your adding more. You think you have no side affects now but then you turn 40 and 45 and you get shocked if you get cervical cancer and breast cancer You should know you brought that on yourself.
brittrose brittrose 5 years
mirena goes up in the uterous so basically your putting hormones up inside you going directly into your bloodstream paraguard you want metal going into your bloodstream because thats what your doing especialy cooper? Your soaking your cervix in metal. Its toxic you should be more careful what goes inside you because thats directly going into your bloodstream. You should also use organic tampons, all these birth controls you all have no idea what exactly your doing to your body you think something is safe just because the fda or your doctor says so I would never put any chemicals inside me I use my own instincts and not some drug companies ideas.
bisou002 bisou002 6 years
I have Paragard because of a FV Leiden mutation, which disables me from using hormonal birth control. I've had it since August of last year and I'm not really a fan. My periods are irregular and I get cramps ALL. THE. TIME. I'll be awakened in the middle of the night with cramps for no reason. It's not fun. And the insertion was one of the most painful things I've ever experienced in my life! I don't know how you guys said it was fine. Holy moly. I want to have it removed this summer but I'm so afraid of the pain that I'm putting off the removal. :(
cheyn1 cheyn1 6 years
I love my mirena. I've had it in for almost two years. My husband and I moved to China shortly after we got married and I didn't want to deal with having a pill shipped in (and possibly getting lost or stuck at customs) every month. With that being said- out of my 6ish friends that have/ had mirenas, two of them got rid of them after a few months because they said it compromised their immune system. I haven't had a problem with that but like any birth control I feel like your side effects are super individual.
1019525 1019525 6 years
Thank you! I've been considering Paragard after having been on the Pill and Nuvaring for the past 10 years. I want to get OFF of hormones and let my body do its thing. My appointment is on June 2!
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