So...let's hear it about the emergency contraception option called the Copper IUD
Widely praised as a highly effective form of contraception, the copper (or non-hormonal) IUD is also the most effective form of emergency contraception and can be left in for up to 12 years to help prevent future unwanted pregnancies.
How effective it is: About 99.9 percent if inserted within five days.
If you can have your IUD inserted within five days, it's almost perfect at preventing a potential pregnancy from unprotected sex. And of course the big plus is that it can then be left in for up to 10 to 12 years as your daily form of birth control (the copper IUD is more than 99 percent effective as a birth control method too). Like the pill or basically any form of birth control aside from condoms, though, an IUD won't protect you from STIs, so you'll still need a barrier method.
How it works: The copper in the IUD immobilizes sperm, which keeps it from traveling up the fallopian tubes and fertilizing an egg.
The ParaGard site says the IUD works by interfering with sperm movement — the copper disrupts the way sperm travel (in a little zigzaggy motion) and makes them immobile and incapable of traveling up the fallopian tube. The copper in the IUD might also affect the chemistry in your uterus, which keeps a fertilized egg from implanting.
What's in it: A small amount of copper and plastic.
To be perfectly clear, the IUD that can be used as emergency contraception in the U.S. is the copper, non-hormonal, ParaGard IUD — not the Skyla or Mirena, both of which contain hormones. What's good about this is that it means the ParaGard is equally effective for all women, regardless of BMI. It's the most effective and best option for women who are obese or have a BMI greater than 35.
When you can use it: Within five days of unprotected sex.
If inserted within five days of unprotected sex, the non-hormonal IUD has about a 99.9 percent effectiveness rate of preventing a potential pregnancy. That's a larger time window and a greater effectiveness rate than Plan B or even ella — but unlike Plan B, you can't just get an IUD over-the-counter (for obvious reasons).
The IUD is great option for emergency contraception if you're into the idea of using it as your method of birth control after, but Dr. Brightman said it's not exactly practical to use only as an emergency contraceptive — it could wind up being pretty uncomfortable and expensive. "I would keep it in for at least one or two full cycles to make sure that a woman isn't pregnant, but also to dissuade her from removing it," Dr. Brightman said. "In theory, after a normal period and a normal negative pregnancy test, an IUD can be removed."
Where you can get it: At your doctor's office (your gynecologist or some general practitioners), your college's health center, or most Planned Parenthoods.
While you have five days to have the IUD inserted, there's a bit of effort and time involved. You'll need an appointment to have an insertion quickly, which, as Dr. Brightman explained, can be difficult in a lot of places around the country. Some doctors also might require a consultation before you have the IUD inserted. If you can make all that happen within the five-day timeframe, a copper IUD is a great option. But Dr. Brightman said that, just in her practice, she typically encourages people to take Plan B as soon as they can, and then you can always get an IUD as soon as you can, if you want that. Because there are no hormones in the copper IUD, you can take Plan B or ella as well as having an IUD inserted.
How much it costs: Between $0 and $932.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the ParaGard IUD is free under most insurance plans and Medicaid. If you're unsure whether your insurance covers the cost of the copper IUD, you can call your provider or use Bedsider's insurance guide. If you don't have insurance, a lot of low-cost clinics offer IUDs at a lower price.
What to expect: No two women have the same exact experience with IUD insertion, but for an idea of how things can vary, you can read how 13 women felt during their own insertions. Some women say insertion (which involves slightly dilating the cervix — the sometimes painful part) feels like "just a pinch," others compare insertion to feeling like someone is shocking their cervix "with a taser." But either way, insertion only lasts a few seconds and is over and done with for the next 10 to 12 years.
Once the IUD is in, some women say their periods get heavier and cramping is worse, others are unaffected. It really just depends on your body. Most things normalize within 6 to 12 months, and you're good to go with a foolproof method of birth control for a decade. The advice about pricing and insurance is for US citizens only, but the rest of the story is valid all over the world!