Intrauterine Contraceptive Devices
At the Dublin Well Woman Centre we use two types of copper intrauterine device (IUD) for long term contraception. The Copper T 380 device provides safe effective contraception for at least 10 years. The Mini TT 380 copper lasts for 5 years.
Both are small T – shaped devices that must be inserted into your womb by a trained doctor.
How does a copper coil work?
- It thickens the mucus in your cervix so it provides a barrier to sperm moving.
- Copper has a direct effect on the movement mechanism of sperm.
- It sets up a reaction in the lining of your womb so that an egg is less likely to implant.
How effective is the copper coil?
The copper coil is slightly less effective than Mirena. However, the failure rate is still much lower than when using contraceptive pills because pills may be forgotten or not absorbed due to a stomach upset.
What are the advantages of a copper coil?
- It works as soon as it is put in.
- It lasts for 10 years
What are the disadvantages of a copper coil?
- It can make your periods heavier than normal.
- Infection may be introduced into your womb at the time the coil is being put in.
- The womb can push the coil out. This is rare but if it does occur it is most likely to happen within a few weeks of being put in.
- The coil may go through the wall of the womb as it is being inserted. This is very unlikely when it is fitted by an experienced doctor.
How is an IUD fitted?
The device must be put in by a specially trained doctor. The device is fitted sometime during the first 7 days of your cycle. This is because this is the time when the neck of your womb (cervix) is softest and so the device is easiest to fit. You may also be asked to insert 2 tablets (containing a hormone called misoprostol) into your vagina 3 hours before the device is fitted because these will also help soften your cervix. Fitting an IUD can be uncomfortable so it is a good idea to take a painkiller beforehand. You may get a period-type pain for a few days afterwards. Talk to the doctor about taking pain relief to help with this.
During insertion, the threads of the coil are normally cut so that about an 1 – 2 inches of thread is visible at your cervix.
After an IUD is fitted do I have to do anything?
You should come back for a check-up about 6 weeks after the IUS/IUD is fitted when we can check that the threads are still visible which means that the device is in place. After the six weeks check, if everything is normal then you do not need further check ups. However if you get any unusual bleeding please make an appointment to see a one of our doctors.
What if I change my mind?
A trained doctor can take out the IUD at any time. If you are planning to have the device taken out, you should ether abstain from sex or use a condom for the week before the coil is taken out. This is because sperm can live for several days and there is a possibility of you getting pregnant if the coil is taken out within a few days of sexual intercourse.
What if I get pregnant while using an IUD?
It is not common with the copper coil and rare with the hormonal coils. If you get pregnant an ultrasound scan can determine where the pregnancy has implanted. If the device is below the pregnancy and the coil threads are easily seen then a doctor will remove the device. However if the threads are not visible then it is better just to leave the IUD in place.
There is an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy* if you get pregnant with a coil in place. So if you have any unusual bleeding and particularly if a period is late please take a pregnancy test. If you have pelvic pain and or bleeding and a positive pregnancy test you should go to your nearest maternity hospital or A/E department.
If the coil remains in place throughout a pregnancy there is no increased risk that it will cause a baby to have any problems after delivery.
*An ectopic pregnancy is where the pregnancy implants outside of the uterine cavity – usually in a fallopian tube. It can cause severe pain and bleeding and needs urgent medical care.
I want to have a baby. Will I be able to get pregnant when the IUD is removed?
The device has no effect on your ovarian function so you would return to normal fertility when the device is removed.