A series of events called the menstrual cycle happens about once every month to prepare a woman’s body for pregnancy. Changing levels of natural chemicals in the bloodstream called hormones control these events.
The reproductive organs affected by these hormones include, the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. The ovaries produce two main hormones called estrogen and progesterone. As the level of estrogen begins to rise it causes the normally thick mucus inside
the cervix to thin out.
Estrogen also triggers other hormones to cause one of the ovaries to release an egg. This process is called ovulation. If a woman has sex during this time a man’s reproductive cells called sperm can pass through the thinner mucus to fertilize an egg in the uterus. Estrogen causes the lining to thicken, which prepares it to receive a fertilized egg.
Rising progesterone levels cause glands in the lining to release fluid that feeds the fertilized egg. Progesterone also causes the thinned-out mucus in the cervix to become thick again which prevents sperm from passing through. If an egg hasn’t been fertilized, the levels of both estrogen and progesterone begin to fall. This drop in hormone levels causes menstruation, a process where the uterus sheds its inner tissue lining and blood through the vagina.
A intrauterine device or IUD is a birth control method consisting of a soft, flexible t-shaped device with a thin string on the end. There are two types of intrauterine devices, hormonal IUDs and a copper IUD. To prevent pregnancy, a doctor places a IUD inside a woman’s uterus with the string hanging down inside her vagina. Both types of IUD cause mild inflammation of the uterine lining which releases immune cells and chemicals that kill sperm. Hormonal IUDs also contain a synthetic type of progesterone called levonorgestrel.
Levonorgestrel mainly prevents pregnancy by thickening the mucus inside the cervix which prevents sperm from entering the uterus. It also prevents the uterine lining from thickening so it is less likely to receive a fertilized egg. About a month after inserting an IUD the doctor may schedule an exam to make sure it is still in place. The doctor may also teach the woman how
to check her IUD between visits by feeling for the string inside the vagina. Depending on the type, a IUD can be left in place for 3 to 10 years. Women can have their doctor remove a IUD at any time, for any reason including the desire to have children.
An intrauterine device or IUD is one of the most effective methods of birth control. IUDs are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that less than one out of a hundred women will become pregnant.
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