The intrauterine device (IUD)
The intrauterine device (IUD) (also known as the “coil” or “copper coil” or “copper T” or “loop”) is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that is fitted in the uterus (womb). It provides contraceptive protection for up to ten years.
The copper stops the sperm and egg from surviving inside the uterus and fallopian tubes, so sperm cannot fertilise an egg.
Inserting an IUD is a simple procedure that takes about 5 minutes. A trained person inserts the IUD through the vagina. The IUD sits in the uterus and does not move from there. There are threads attached to the IUD which sit in the vagina that assist with removal and allow you and your provider want to check the IUD is in the right place.
An IUD can also be used as emergency contraception. It is very effective at preventing pregnancy if it is inserted as soon as possible after unprotected sex
How good is the IUD at preventing a pregnancy?
- The IUD works very well at preventing pregnancy
- 1 of 100 of people who use the IUD will become pregnant
What the advantages of the IUD?
- Once in place, you don’t need to think about the IUD or do anything until it needs replacing, which can be up to 10 years depending on the type of IUD you are using
- You can get the IUD removed whenever you want
- Your fertility will return to normal immediately after the IUD is removed
- The IUD contains no hormones, so does not have any hormonal side effects and you will still experience your period
- The IUD can be inserted right after childbirth, abortion or miscarriage
- It is not used during sex so will not affect spontaneity. Neither you nor your partner should be aware of the IUD during sex
- The IUD can be used as emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy from recent unprotected sex. It is the most effective form of emergency contraception available
What are the disadvantages of the IUD?
- An IUD requires a vaginal examination with a simple, short procedure to fit it in the uterus (womb)
- The main side effect of IUD is heavier, more painful, and/or longer periods. Some users might also experience light spotting between periods, especially in the first few months after insertion. In most cases these side effects tend to settle down after the first three to six months.
- Condoms are the only contraceptive method which protect against sexually transmitted infections. To ensure protection from both pregnancy and infection, we recommend "dual protection". This means using a male or female condom in addition to the contraceptive method of your choice to prevent pregnancy.
How do I know the IUD is still in place?
- It is rare for the IUD to fall out or move. Most women can self-examine and feel the small, very thin thread attached to the end of the IUD which comes out of the cervix and into the vagina. When you have the IUD inserted make sure your carer shows you how to find the thread so you feel confident to find it again.
What are the possible risks / complications for this method?
- Anaemia if menstrual bleeding is prolonged and heavy
- There is a small risk of infection when the IUD is put in
- There’s a very small risk that the IUD might go through (perforate) your uterus (womb) or cervix when it’s put in. If it does happen, the IUD may have to be removed by surgery
- The IUD moves out of place or falls out and stops providing protection against pregnancy