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The Pill vs. an IUD: Which to Choose?

The type of birth control you choose is a very personal decision. You want a type that’s effective, of course, but that also fits into your lifestyle. An intrauterine device (IUD) and the birth control pill are popular choices, and for good reason. Both are extremely effective in preventing pregnancy.

At Capital Women’s Care, we can help you weigh the pros and cons of each option and settle on the form of contraception that’s right for you. Take a few moments to learn some of the differences between IUDs and the pill, and what to consider when choosing between the two.

About IUDs

Intrauterine devices are small and T-shaped. They’re placed into your uterus by our expert team. This insertion process takes just a few minutes, but you get 3-10 years of contraceptive support. Once the IUD is inserted, you don’t really need to do anything to prevent pregnancy. The IUD is no fuss.

IUDs don’t all work the same way. The Paragard® IUD is made from copper, while other types, such as Mirena® and Skyla®, are made of plastic and contain progestin, a hormone that’s released over time.

Some women appreciate that Paragard is hormone-free; the presence of copper is enough to deter sperm from reaching the egg. Hormonal IUDs may be helpful, however, in preventing heavy menstrual bleeding and cramps associated with your cycle. 

Both types of IUD offer long-lasting protection from pregnancy, but the Paragard IUD works for up to 10 years.

About the pill

The pill is the most common form of birth control. It delivers hormones to your body that prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg. Many versions of the pill are available, each with slightly different effects on your body, but all are effective in preventing pregnancy when used correctly.

Let’s compare some of the attributes of IUDs and the pill:


Both the pill and IUDs are extremely effective in preventing pregnancy. The IUD is 99% effective, while the pill is 91% effective. The reason the pill is sometimes less effective is due to improper use, such as failure to take it regularly.


The IUD can be removed at any time and you’re able to get pregnant right away, provided you have no fertility complications. You begin to ovulate within one month.

Most women can get pregnant in 1-3 months of coming off the pill. If you’re on the minipill — a progestin-only version — pregnancy may occur faster. The minipill thins the lining of your uterus so implantation is impossible, rather than stopping your ovaries from producing an egg, so the effects of this pill are more quickly reversed.

Day-to-day convenience

Hands down, the IUD is more convenient than the pill. You must remember to take the pill every day. The IUD, however, is inserted and provides immediate protection against pregnancy without any effort on your part.

Protection from sexually transmitted disease

Neither the pill nor an IUD protects you from STDs. The only form of birth control that does shield you is the condom. If you have multiple partners, or a partner who has other partners, using a condom as an extra layer of protection against STDs is recommended even if you have an IUD or take the pill.

Side effects

Both the IUD and the pill can cause side effects such as mood changes, weight gain, and headaches. You may also have changes to your period due to these contraceptive methods. With the IUD, you may have a heavier period for the first few months, but both methods can cause spotting and irregular periods.

The IUD can also cause pain during sex, slight pain during insertion, and vaginal discharge. Neither hormonal IUDs nor the pill are recommended for women with high blood pressure or a history of blood clots.

Ultimately, the type of birth control you use is your choice. We at Capital Women’s Care are available to help women in Silver Spring and Laurel, Maryland, make the best choice for their needs. Call today for a consultation or request an appointment using this website.

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