Left to Our Own Devices: The Paragard
The Paragard, also commonly referred to as the copper IUD, is a non-hormonal intrauterine device (meaning it is placed in the uterus by a provider). It can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years, but doesn’t have to be used for the full length of time; it is completely reversible and can be removed at any time.
In contrast to hormonal IUDs, the Paragard is completely hormone free and made of a plastic t-shaped plastic frame wrapped in copper. The copper in the Paragard prevents sperm from reaching an egg, thereby preventing pregnancy. A provider will insert the Paragard into the uterus by sliding a small plastic tube containing the Paragard into the uterus, and removing the tube, leaving the Paragard in the uterus. The IUD has strings attached, used for removal. The provider will trim the strings, leaving them just long enough for you to be able to do a self-check.
Benefits of the Paragard include convenience, effectiveness, privacy, safety, and reversibility. The Paragard is one of the most effective forms of birth control at over 99% effective, and it is completely private; no one else should be able to tell that you are using it. Experts agree that the IUD is safe, and most women are good candidates for IUDs. After a Paragard is removed, a person can return to fertility very quickly.
Like other LARC methods, it is a “get it and forget it” method, taking careful compliance out of the equation. Some people who use the Paragard experience heavier periods, especially in the first 3-6 months after it being placed. It’s important to discuss all benefits and side effects with a medical provider so you can decide what works best for your body and lifestyle. IUDs do not protect against STIs, so it’s important to continue to use condoms to lower the risk of transmission of STIs.
One of the main barriers to Paragard, especially for folks who are uninsured or underinsured, is its cost. At A Step Ahead, we are committed to breaking down barriers to LARC (long-acting, reversible contraception) access, regardless of what that is. If you’re having trouble getting connected to a clinic, you have limited access to transportation, or you have concerns around cost, call us at 615-671-7837. We will cover a full contraceptive consult, an insertion of a LARC device, removal at any time, and transportation to and from visits—all for free.
Written by: Olivia Seay