What is a copper IUD?
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small plastic device which is inserted into the uterus (womb) by a doctor and is used to prevent pregnancy. There are two different types of IUDs- hormonal and copper.
The copper IUD is an IUD which has copper wrapped around its stem and arms. It does not contain any hormones.
How does it work?
The copper IUD works mainly by preventing fertilisation. It does this by interfering with sperm movement.
It does not affect ovulation.
How effective is it?
The copper IUD is 99.2% effective.
How long does the copper IUD last?
There are two types of copper IUD available in Australia –the Copper T which lasts 10 years, and the Multiload which lasts 5 years.
How is an IUD removed?
Removal of an IUD is done by a doctor. It is a relatively quick and straightforward procedure and can be done at any time.
What are the advantages of a Copper IUD?
- It is a highly effective contraceptive (99.2%)
- It does not require any day to day action on your part.
- It is long acting (up to 10 years depending on the type).
- The effect is rapidly reversible after removal.
- While there is an upfront cost for the device (usually over $100), it is a relatively inexpensive method over time.
- It can be used by breast feeding women.
- It is a suitable method for women who cannot use, or do not wish to use hormonal contraception.
What are the disadvantages?
- It must be inserted and removed by a doctor.
- As with any procedure there is always a small risk of complications.
- The insertion procedure can be uncomfortable.
- Provides no protection against sexually transmissible infections.
- Some women may have factors in the structure of their uterus that prevent IUD insertion, and this may not be apparent until insertion is attempted.
What are the possible problems which may occur with a Copper IUD?
- Periods may become heavier, longer and more painful with the Copper IUD. This is not a problem for most women but if your periods are already heavy and painful this may be an issue.
- There is a small risk of pregnancy occurring with an IUD (fewer than 1 in 100). If pregnancy does occur there is a slightly increased risk of it occurring in the fallopian tube.
- Infection: There is a small risk of infection at the time of insertion (about 1 in 500).
- Expulsion: In about 5% of cases the uterus will expel the device. Women need to check that the IUD is still in place by feeling for the IUD string after each period. If the string is not present women this may indicate that the IUD has moved or been expelled.
- Perforation: This is a rare event (approximately 2 in 1000 insertions) which occurs when the IUD passes through the wall of the uterus into the pelvic area. This will require minor surgery under a general anaesthetic to remove.
What happens in the IUD insertion process at SHFPACT?
Initial consultation appointment
- There will be an initial consultation with a doctor to determine if a Copper IUD is a suitable option for you. The method and the insertion procedure will be explained, a Pap smear will be done if it is due, and swabs may also be done. It is best to ask any questions or raise concerns at this point.
- Copper IUDs need to be inserted on day 1 to 10 of your cycle (Day one being the first day of your period). Following your initial consultation you will need to make an appointment for the insertion within this timeframe.
- You will be encouraged to arrange to be driven home and to rest up after the procedure for the remainder of the day (you may need to organise care for young children, time off work etc.). You will probably be fine to return to normal activities the following day.
- You will be at the clinic for approximately an hour to an hour and a half. If parking please ensure you have enough time.
- The doctor will run through the procedure and make sure the process is clear.
- An uncomplicated insertion procedure takes about 15 mins. You will be asked to stay at the clinic for a minimum of 20 minutes following he procedure. If you are not feeling well you will be asked to remain until the staff caring for you feel that you are well enough to leave.
- The copper IUD is provided to you on the day of the insertion appointment at SHFPACT, and the cost will be included in the fee charged on the day.
- There may be cramping and/ or bleeding in the first few days afterwards.
- We advise that nothing should enter the vagina for 72 hours afterwards in order to reduce the risk of infection– no tampons, no sex, no water (showering is ok).
- You will need to return to the clinic for a check-up at 4- 6 weeks after insertion.
- You should contact the doctor if:
- You suspect you might be pregnant.
- You experience excessive pelvic pain or tenderness, fever or chills, offensive discharge or deep pain with intercourse.
- You can’t feel the string or can feel the plastic of the device.
Who do I go to for IUD insertion?
IUDs are only inserted by doctors who have done IUD training. The clinic at SHFPACT provides IUD insertion services. Some GPs and most gynaecologists also provide this service.
- Contraception: An Australian clinical practice handbook 3rd Ed
- Contraception – Intrauterine Devices/ Family Planning QLD
- The copper IUD Fact sheet/ Family Planning NSW
- Guillebaud, J & MacGregor, A 2013. Contraception: Your questions answered. 6th ed. Churchill Livingstone