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What is Levonorgestrel-Releasing Intrauterine System Used For?

Women desiring contraception may consider using levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system. This device comes in two products -- one that is left in place for up to five years and another one that can remain in the uterus for up to three years. They work by slowly releasing a hormone that can alter the cervical mucus, inhibit sperm movement, and change the lining of the uterus.

An Overview of Levonorgestrel-Releasing Intrauterine System Uses

Levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (Mirena®, Skyla™) is a prescription intrauterine contraceptive (IUC), also commonly referred to as an intrauterine device (IUD). It is a small, flexible, plastic, T-shaped device that is placed directly into the uterus by a healthcare provider.
 
Once in the uterus, the device slowly releases a small amount of levonorgestrel over several years. Levonorgestrel is a progestin hormone found in several birth control pills. Because it only contains levonorgestrel and not estrogen, the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system is a progestin-only contraceptive. This makes it a good choice for women who cannot use or do not want to use estrogen-containing birth control and who don't want to worry about taking a pill every day.
 
There are currently two levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system products available in the United States. One of these, Mirena, can remain in the uterus and provide birth control for up to five years. It is best for women who have already had a baby. Mirena is also approved to treat heavy menstrual bleeding in women who choose intrauterine contraception.
 
The other device, Skyla, is smaller and can be used in women who have not yet had a child. It releases a lower dose of levonorgestrel and works for up to three years.
 
Levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system is a reversible form of birth control. Although the device can remain in place for up to three to five years, it can be removed at any time by your healthcare provider. Once removed, it will no longer protect against pregnancy. About 77 percent to 80 percent of women wanting to become pregnant are able to conceive within 12 months of having the device removed.
 
Levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system does not protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. It also cannot be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.
 
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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