Intrauterine Device / Copper Coil, General Contraception

What is it?

  • A small, soft, flexible, T shaped device (with parts of it coated in copper) that fits inside the womb.
  • It is easily inserted by a trained health care professional.

How does it work?

  • Prevents sperm surviving in the womb and fallopian tubes and therefore stops fertilisation of an egg.
  • Prevents implantation of a fertilised egg in the womb lining.

What’s great about it?

  • Extremely effective (>99%). Less than 6 in 1000 women will fall pregnant using the device.
  • Contraception lasts for 5-10 years unless you want it removed earlier.
  • Doesn’t contain hormones so can be used by women who can’t tolerate or use hormonal methods and won’t affect the natural frequency of your periods.
  • Fertility returns after it is removed.
  • Can be used by women who have never had a baby.
  • Will be no need to take pills, interrupt sex or requirement to attend clinic regularly after insertion.
  • Is not affected by other medications.

What’s not so great about it?

  • No protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - condoms advised.
  • Insertion can be slightly uncomfortable. Local anaesthetic is offered.
  • Periods may be a little longer, heavier or more painful. This may improve.
  • Can become displaced or fall out (expulsion) but this is uncommon (5 in 100) and you can do checks yourself to make sure it’s in place.
  • Small risk of pelvic infection for up to 3 weeks after insertion. This risk is reduced by having a sexual health screen before it’s fitted.
  • Very small risk of perforating the womb or cervix (1 in 500).

Where can I get it?

  • Sexual Health services. A preliminary appointment is sometimes required before fitting.
  • Family planning clinics
  • Some GP practices

Additional Links

SH.UK offers a range of free sexual health service such as STI testing, treatment and contraception across the UK. Simply register then complete an online consultation to order your free STI test kit.

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