Healthy lives for young people
Contraception

IUD (intrauterine device)

The intrauterine device (IUD) also known as the coil or copper IUD (Cu-IUD), is a small, T-shaped plastic device which contains copper. It is put into the uterus (womb) through the vagina by a specially trained doctor or nurse. The IUD does not contain hormones.

Quick guide

How it works

The IUD is a small plastic device that is placed in the Uterus. The copper in the device is toxic to sperm and also prevents a fertilised egg implanting in the womb.  Read more

Pros & cons

It is also a method of emergency contraception
It protects you from pregnancy immediately
It does not protect you from STIs
Periods may be heavier, more painful or last longer

Read more

Where to get it

The IUD needs to be fitted by a doctor or nurse who has been specially trained. It is available free of charge from a range of services including contraceptive clinics, your GP and Brook. Find your nearest using our find a service toolRead more

How it works

The IUD prevents the egg from being fertilised by sperm by;

  • Preventing the sperm from surviving inside a woman’s body as copper is toxic to sperm.
  • Stopping a fertilised egg implanting in the womb.

It can stay in place and prevent pregnancy for between 5 and 10 years, depending on the type, or until you have it taken out.

Pros & cons

The IUD can also be fitted as a method of emergency contraception

Pros

  • The IUD can also be fitted as a method of emergency contraception
  • It does not interrupt sex
  • It is 99% effective
  • Once you have had it fitted, it prevents pregnancy for between 5 and 10 years
  • It protects you from pregnancy immediately
  • Your fertility will return to normal after the IUD has been removed
  • It can be used by women who cannot use contraception that contains hormones, such as the combined pill, progestogen-only pill (POP), vaginal ring, IUS and contraceptive patch
  • The IUD is not affected by vomiting, diarrhoea or other medicines like other methods of contraception

Cons

  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Periods may be heavier, more painful or last longer
  • There is a small risk of getting an infection after the IUD is inserted
  • There is a small risk of the IUD becoming pushed out or the IUD becoming displaced
  • There is a very small risk of perforation of the uterus
  • If you do become pregnant while you are using the IUD there is a small risk of ectopic pregnancy

Where to get the IUD

The IUD needs to be fitted by a doctor or nurse who has been specially trained. It is available free of charge from a range of services including contraceptive clinics, your GP and Brook. Find your nearest using our find a service tool.

Contraception and sexual health services such as Brook are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16. Health professionals work to strict guidelines and won’t tell anyone else about your visit unless they believe you’re at serious risk of immediate harm. Find out more about Brook’s confidentiality policy.

What happens at an appointment

An appointment will typically include:

  • A few questions about your medical and family history, to work out what method would suit you best.
  • You will need to have an internal examination – a doctor or nurse will look inside your vagina to check the position and size of your uterus before the IUD can be fitted
  • They will also check for any signs of infection, sometimes you may also be given antibiotics.

Some services may be able to fit it at the same appointment, or you may need a second appointment.

Fitting the IUD (shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes):

  1. You’ll be asked to lay on the bed
  2. Remove the lower half of your clothing (e.g. trousers/skirt and underwear)
  3. Open your legs and bend your knees so the doctor or nurse can use a speculum to slightly widen your vagina to help insert the IUD into your uterus.

The doctor or nurse may discuss painkiller tablets/using local anaesthetic to make the fitting more comfortable.

The IUD can be used as a form of emergency contraception. It could then be left in your uterus (womb) and be used as ongoing contraception.

INFORMATION

While using the IUD you can use tampons and/or towels.

After the IUD is fitted

You may get some period-type pain and possibly some light bleeding for a few days afterwards.

The IUD has two threads which hang through the opening at the entrance of your uterus (cervix). You should check the threads a few times during the first month and then at least once a month.

Once the IUD is fitted, you will need to go back to the doctor or nurse after three to six weeks for a check up.

It is very unlikely that the IUD will come out but if you are worried and can feel the IUD itself, or cannot feel the threads you should see a doctor or nurse straight away.

You will then only need to go back when the IUD needs to be replaced (5 to 10 years depending on the type of IUD).

You should go back to the or doctor or nurse if you notice any of the below symptoms:

  • Severe or prolonged stomach pains, especially if you feel unwell, hot and clammy
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding with or without clots

Starting the IUD and when you are protected from pregnancy

The IUD can be fitted at any time in your cycle if it is certain that you are not pregnant. It may also be possible to fit the IUD as emergency contraception. Check the emergency contraception calculator to work out if it is not too late to fit an IUD.

As soon as the IUD is fitted then you will be protected immediately. You will be asked to take a pregnancy test before the IUD is fitted and another three weeks later if there is a pregnancy risk.

How is the IUD removed?

The IUD must be removed by a trained doctor or nurse, the procedure should be less painful and quicker than having the IUD fitted. If you are not going to have another IUD you will need to use additional contraception, such as condoms, for the seven days before the IUD is taken out if you do not want to become pregnant.

Your fertility should return to normal as soon as the IUD is removed.

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