Anyone with a womb who wants to avoid getting pregnant. Not suitable for anyone who thinks they might be pregnant, has an untreated STI or pelvic infection, has problems with their womb or cervix, or has unexplained bleeding after sex.
An IUD is a T-shaped device containing copper, that’s inserted in the womb by a nurse or doctor. It stops pregnancy and can also weaken periods. The IUD is similar to the IUS, however instead of releasing the hormone progestogen, the IUD releases copper into the womb. Often referred to as the “copper coil” or “coil”.
From insertion the IUD can stay in the womb for up to 5-10 years, depending on the type of IUD. There are different types of IUDs which differ in size, your nurse or doctor will inform you exactly when to schedule an appointment to remove the IUD. There are two small strings on the end of the IUD which you can feel to check if it’s still there.
If you’re 40 or over an IUD can be fitted and left in until you reach menopause or no longer need contraception.
You can have an IUD inserted 4 weeks after giving birth and immediately after having a miscarriage or abortion.
The IUD is more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. When inserted you are immediately protected against pregnancy. The copper inside the IUD alters the cervical mucus, which makes it difficult for sperm to reach an egg and survive. It can also stop an egg from being able to implant itself in the womb.
The IUD can weaken periods but the IUS is more effective in this.
This contraceptive does not protect you from contracting an STI.
You can get an IUD for free, even if you’re under 16 years old. You can get an IUD from Contraception Clinics, Sexual Health Clinics or GP surgeries.
The IUD can be fitted at any time during your menstrual cycle, but it’s recommended you don’t have it fitted when on your period.
Before an IUD is fitted, a GP or nurse will check inside your vagina to check the position and size of your womb. You may be tested for any existing infections and STIs. The appointment takes about 20-30 mins, and fitting the IUD normally doesn’t take longer than 5 minutes. The fitting can be uncomfortable, and a local anaesthetic can be given to help you. Chat to your GP about this before the appointment. You will have a follow up appointment with your GP after 3 to 6 weeks to check that everything is fine.
real life experiences
"I chose to go on the copper coil as I wanted a form of reliable contraception without the addition of hormones. I had just had a baby so didn’t want something I had to worry about for a while, so the coil is perfect as it lasts for 5 years. I have been blessed with light periods, so wasn’t too worried about the coil making them really heavy and painful. The insertion was super quick and easy, with just a bit of bleeding for the next couple of days. I have now had it in for a year and have had absolutely no issues." Emma she/her
"I wanted to weaken my period, and I didn’t need contraception against pregnancy because I had a girlfriend. I went in wanting to get the Mirena coil (IUS) which is said to weaken periods, however my cervix was too small for the Mirena so the nurse switched it for a smaller coil (an IUD) which was less likely to achieve what I wanted. Looking back I should have said no, I don’t want that coil and cancelled the whole procedure, but I travelled 1 hour to get there and I was lying on the bed legs spread ready to go, so it seemed such a waste of effort to stop there. I went solo to the appointment which I regret now. As soon as the nurse inserted the coil it felt like someone had suddenly sat on me. My womb had cramped up and I felt so faint. I sat in the waiting room not being able to move for ages. I had to call my girlfriend to try and book a taxi for me because I had no money and I was so weak to get an hour long bus home. I couldn’t eat or stand straight for the rest of the day. The pain went away after 3-4 days, and it wasn’t as intense as the first day. It felt like really bad period cramps. I should have really pushed to get the IUS, because my IUD hasn’t weakened my period at all. But I know others who have had really positive experiences with their IUDs, everyone is different."