IUD (Intra-uterine Device)

An IUD is a small T-shaped device, about 4 centimetres (1 ½ inches) long, that’s inserted by a doctor or nurse practitioner through the vagina and cervix, and into the uterus. Once it’s in, you shouldn’t feel it at all. You’ll probably need a health exam and screening for STIs before getting the IUD put in.

How to use it

Generally, it’s inserted during your period. The insertion takes only a few minutes and you may experience cramp-like pain at that time, and possibly for the next couple of days. When you want to have it removed, you’ll need to make an appointment with a doctor or nurse practitioner.

How it works

There are two types:

1) Intra-uterine System (IUS, called Mirena)

Mirena slowly releases a progestin hormone called levonorgestrel. It is estrogen-free. It causes the cervical mucus to thicken and the lining of the uterus to thin, so sperm is blocked and a fertilized egg can’t implant. You’ll continually have a small amount of levonorgestrel in your system while Mirena is in place.

Effectiveness

99% in all cases. There’s less chance to have an unplanned pregnancy than with the Pill or the Patch.

Advantages

Highly effective in preventing pregnancy for up to five years. You don’t have to remember to use it before sex because it’s already there.  After a few months your periods will get lighter, menstrual cramps may decrease, and your periods may stop completely. It’s reversible, so periods will start back up after it’s removed.

Disadvantages

Doesn’t protect against HIV or STIs. You may have irregular bleeding and spotting in the first few months. The IUD could fall out, although it usually doesn’t. There is a high one-time cost, but less expensive than the Pill in the long run. Insertion can be painful.

Cost and coverage

Mirena is covered by most private health insurance plans, but you should know that if you use your parent’s drug plan, they may be able to see that information. It is also covered by:

  • EIA/social assistance
  • FNIHB (First Nations status) – They will cover one every 2 years. You can call 204-983-8886 to make sure no one else can see your prescriptions.
  • Manitoba Pharmacare – If you have a Manitoba Health card and have no other coverage, there’s a good chance you can apply for Pharmacare to cover a good portion of your drug costs. Click here for more information.

If you don’t have any coverage, you may be able to get Mirena for free from your health care provider’s office or clinic. Otherwise, the cost to just purchase Mirena is generally between $350 and $380 in Winnipeg (over 5 years, that’s about $6/month).*

2) Copper (non-hormonal) IUD (called Nova-T)

The copper wire in this IUD changes the chemistry in your uterus so that sperm doesn’t move as quickly and it’s harder for a fertilized egg to implant.

Effectiveness:

98% effective in all cases. There’s less chance to have an unplanned pregnancy than with the Pill or the Patch.

Advantages:

Highly effective over many years. It is reversible and there are no hormonal side effects. After paying the initial cost, there are no further expenses.

Disadvantages:

The IUD doesn’t protect against HIV or STIs. You could experience longer, heavier periods and more cramping. The IUD could fall out, although it usually doesn’t. Insertion can be painful.

Cost and coverage:

Nova-T is covered by most private health insurance plans, but you should know that if you use your parent’s drug plan, they may be able to see that information. It is also covered by:

  • EIA/social assistance
  • FNIHB (First Nations status) – They will cover one every 2 ½ years. You can call 204-983-8886 to make sure no one else can see your prescriptions.
  • Nova-T is NOT covered by Manitoba Pharmacare.

If you don’t have any coverage, you may be able to get Nova-T for free from your health care provider’s office or clinic, or you can call Women’s Health Clinic (204-947-1517) for information on their free/low-cost birth control program. Otherwise, the cost to just purchase Nova-T is generally between $175 and $205 in Winnipeg (over 5 years, that’s about $3/month).*

* This information is up-to-date as of 2014.