Written on December 22, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are a very effective form of long-term birth control. Five different devices are approved in the United States. Four of them contain hormones and are effective for between 3 and 8 years. The fifth IUD is non-hormonal and contains copper approved for 10 years of use.
IUDs are a very effective form of contraception with a very high satisfaction rating. You may wonder, “Does IUD affect hormone levels?” Read on to learn more.
IUDs are T-shaped devices that sit inside the uterus. Hormonal IUDs contain levonorgestrel, a form of progesterone, in varying doses. The copper IUD contains no hormones. IUDs are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. About 14% of women who seek contraception end up choosing IUDs as their form of contraception. The hormone-containing IUDs can be used to decrease menstrual bleeding or to protect the endometrium in people with an intact uterus on estrogen for hormone replacement therapy. All of the IUDs can be used in women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) whether or not they’ve previously been pregnant or delivered a baby. Because none of the IUDs contain estrogen, they are often a good choice if you are breastfeeding.
Your body recognizes the IUD as a foreign body and creates an immune response. This immune response causes inflammation that prevents sperm from being able to reach the fallopian tubes where fertilization of an egg occurs. In addition to the inflammatory response:
Copper IUDs do not contain hormones, and as such, they do not have any effect on the hormone levels.
Levonorgestrel-containing IUDs have traditionally been thought not to affect hormone levels outside the uterus, but increasing evidence suggests that these IUDs may have effects on other parts of the body. Levonorgestrel-containing IUDs secrete a very small amount of hormone at a consistent dose. A recent study out of Europe suggests that hormonal IUDs may cause changes in the breasts. The study showed an increase in benign background parenchymal enhancement, which has been previously established to be a marker for stimulation of breast tissue from hormones.
Synthetic progesterone hormones, such as levonorgestrel, have been shown to have effects on sexual function and naturally occurring hormone levels when taken orally, but there isn’t a lot of data on the effects of IUDs. Some studies show that hormonal IUDs have mixed effects on sex drive in some women. Most of the women in these studies did not experience any change, but a small number experienced either an increase or decrease in sex drive.
While more research is needed to understand exactly what effects IUDs may have on hormone levels, the current research available suggests that IUDs have little to no effect on the hormone levels in most people.
If you have questions or are concerned about your hormone levels, the first step is to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. You may also want to consider lab testing to get more information on your hormone levels.
If your at-home test reflects a need for further care, Everlywell helps connect you with a vetted health professional who can provide a virtual consultation. Find out more about how Everlywell can help make treatment more convenient and accessible by checking out the complete range of at-home tests online today.