What is an IUD?

  • An IUD is a small piece of plastic that a health care provider inserts into a female uterus to prevent pregnancy.
  • The most common IUD is T- shaped with a copper wire wrapped around it.
  • Sometimes people confuse IUDs with IUSs. See SERC’s Fact sheet on IUSs for more information on hormonal intra-uterine birth control.

How does it work?

  • The copper wire on the IUD changes conditions inside the uterus so that sperm cannot live.
  • The IUD will prevent pregnancy 99% of the time.
  • Some IUDs can stay in place for up to 5 years. It can be removed by a health care provider at any time.

Where can I get an IUD?

  • See a health care provider who will give you a prescription for an IUD.
  • Take your prescription to a pharmacy to buy the IUD.
  • Take the IUD back to your health care provider to have it put in.
  • An IUD can be expensive. If cost is a problem, talk to your health care provider or your local community health centre.

How do I use an IUD?

  • Your health care provider will do a pelvic exam (internal exam). They will insert a speculum (plastic or metal instrument) into your vagina to see your cervix and wash it with an antiseptic solution.
  • Next, they will insert an IUD into your uterus through the vagina. This can feel uncomfortable, so you may want to ask for pain pills ahead of time.
  • The health care provider will leave the two plastic threads or strings that hang down through the cervix into the vagina. These strings are very thin and do not hang outside the body.

When should I start using an IUD

  • An IUD can be inserted at any time. Some health care providers prefer to insert them during your period.

Does an IUD protect me from STIs and HIV?

  • No. Using safer sex supplies every time you have sex reduces the risk of getting an STI (sexually transmitted infection) or HIV infection.
  • Consider getting tested regularly for STIs and HIV.

Are there any side effects?

Minor side effects include:

  • Cramping and/or discomfort when the IUD is put in.
  • Heavier and more painful periods.

In rare cases, some may experience:

  • Ectopic pregnancy.
  • Uterine perforation, where the IUD punctures the uterus wall.

Your health care provider will assist if any of these happen.

What else do I need to know?

  • If you get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) with an IUD in place, you may get a condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. PID could damage your reproductive organs, causing pain and other serious problems.
  • You may have an STI and not have any symptoms. If you have had unprotected sex, it is important to go to a community health centre or walk-in clinic and ask for an STI test.
  • See your health care provider right away if you have any signs of an infection, such as fever, chills, unusual discharge or smelly discharge. You need to receive treatment to stop the infection from developing into PID.

What do I do if I want my IUD taken out?

  • If you want to have your IUD taken out, you must see a health care provider. Do not try to take an IUD out by yourself.

What do I do if my IUD comes out?

  • Call the health care provider who inserted the IUD. In the meantime, consider using another kind of birth control such as condoms.

Where can I get more information?

  • From your health care provider, community health centre, or public health nurse. If you need a regular health care provider, call the Family Doctor Finder at 204-786-7111 or toll-free at 1-866-690-8260, or go to www.gov.mb.ca/health/familydoctorfinder.
  • From a teen clinic, if you are under 22 years old.
  • From the Facts of Life On-Line: e-mail your questions to thefactsoflife@serc.mb.ca.

If your IUD comes out and you think there may be a chance of pregnancy, see a health care provider or pharmacist for emergency contraception as soon as you can.


Cervix – The lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina.

Ectopic pregnancy – A pregnancy which starts to grow in one of the fallopian tubes, instead of inside the uterus.

Emergency contraception – Medication used as soon as possible after sex, if other forms of birth control failed or were not used. These can be bought from a pharmacist, or acquired at a community health centre such as Klinic or Women’s Health. EC is only effective if taken within 5 days of the sex act. If you can’t afford the pharmacy cost, talk to a health provider at a community health centre for options.

Fallopian tube – The egg cell travels down this tube from the ovary to the uterus.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – An infection of the uterus, the fallopian tubes or ovaries, which is caused by bacteria. Early treatment of PID is the best way to prevent infertility and other health problems.

Sexually transmitted infection – Infections caused by parasites, viruses or bacteria that are passed from one person to another through sex.

Speculum – An instrument used by health practitioners; it is inserted into the vagina to spread the vaginal walls apart so the cervix can be examined.

Sperm – The male reproductive cells; carried out of the penis in the semen during ejaculation.

Uterus – Part of the female reproductive system, the uterus is a pear-shaped, hollow organ. If an egg cell is fertilized with a sperm, it nests within the uterus and a fetus begins to grow inside of it. The uterus is also called the “womb”.

Vagina – The muscular tube that connects the cervix to the outside of the female body; where the menstrual blood comes out from the uterus, where a baby comes out from the uterus during childbirth, and where a penis or sex toy can go in for vaginal intercourse.

SERC believes that all individuals have the right to access unbiased sexual and reproductive health information and services. They must also have the opportunity to explore their values and attitudes in making informed choices that are most appropriate for them, and have those choices respected and supported. SERC supports and defends a pregnant person’s right to choose parenting, adoption, or abortion.

Developed in collaboration with Klinic Community Health and Literacy Partners of Manitoba 2007
Sexuality Education Resource Centre 2016