The IUD and Different Sexual Partners

The Truth About a Common Myth

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As a method of birth control, the IUD (which stands for intrauterine device) is simple—it's a tiny T-shaped device that fits in the uterus, where it prevents sperm from being able to fertilize an egg during ovulation. Some IUDs release small amounts of progestin as well as physically blocking fertilization. This hormone thickens the mucus in the cervix, making it harder for sperm to get into the uterus, and also keeps the lining of the uterus thin, so if sperm does manage to get past the cervical mucus and fertilize an egg, the egg won't be able to easily attach to it.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), the IUD is one of the most effective forms of reversible birth control available; in fact, it's as effective as sterilization. During the first year, fewer than one in 100 women using an IUD will become pregnant.

Besides being highly effective, the IUD has several advantages over other forms of birth control. For one thing, depending on which type you use, you'll be protected from having an unplanned pregnancy for several years. The ParaGard IUD (also known as Copper IUD) is non-hormonal and can be left in place for up to 10 years. The progestin-releasing IUDs are not effective for quite as long but still provide years of protection: The Mirena IUD is effective for five years and the Skyla IUD is good for three years.

Most women can use an IUD with no problem. Those who should not include women who:

  • Have ever had PID (pelvic inflammatory disease)
  • Currently have an untreated pelvic infection
  • Have a sexual partner who has more than one sexual partner

Do You Need a New IUD If You Have a New Partner?

The IUD is a safe and effective form of birth control. It's also ideal for women who may find it challenging to remember to take a pill each day, or who don't like dealing with birth control methods like the diaphragm or condom.

That said, it's one of the most misunderstood methods of pregnancy prevention. One prevailing myth is that if a woman has a new sex partner, she must replace her IUD with a new one. The truth is, there's no medical reason to replace your IUD if you switch your sex partner. Some of the confusion around this idea stems from misinformation. In the past, IUD use by women who hadn't had children as well as those who had different sex partners was incorrectly linked to medical conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility.

The truth is that STIs are linked to an increased risk of PID. Since the IUD doesn't protect against infection, women who use an IUD and have multiple partners may be at higher risk of developing PID and also of becoming infertile—but only because they're at higher risk of getting an STI if they don't also use protection against infection. So while you don't have to worry about changing your IUD if you begin having sex with a different partner, it's extremely important to use ​condoms too. Even better, you and your new partner might consider getting tested for STIs before you become intimate.

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Article Sources

  • American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Frequently Asked Questions: Contraception. "Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC): IUD and Implant."