Sexual Health

The IUD (non-hormonal coil)

There are four methods of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) to choose from; contraceptive injection, the contraceptive implant, the intrauterine device (IUD or non hormonal coil) and the intrauterine system (IUS or hormonal coil). This page is about IUD (the non – hormonal coil). 
 
The key thing about long acting reversible contraception methods is that they are all “fit and forget” methods; that means once they are fitted or given, they protect from pregnancy without women having to do or think about them, until they need replacing.
 
The Intrauterine device (IUD), also known as the coil, is a small plastic and copper device, T-shaped, which is inserted into the womb. The IUD is very effective (99%) and works for up to10 years depending on the type fitted.


Intrauterine Device IUD Coil

Intrauterine Device, IUD, coil in womb diagram
 

“There are different types of IUD, some with more copper than others. IUDs with more copper are more than 99% effective. This means that fewer than one in 100 women who use an IUD will get pregnant in one year. IUDs with less copper will be less effective.” NHS Choices 2015
 
The IUD (or coil) can also be used for emergency contraception. Whether this is a suitable method depends on where the women is in her period cycle; a doctor or nurse will be able to advise.

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An IUD does not offer any protection against sexually transmitted infections. If there is any possibility of infection then condoms should be used as well.
 
Why do people choose to use an intrauterine device instead of another method of contraception? Reasons included finding it hard to remember to take the pill every day, concern about hormone-based contraceptives, or needing to stop using oral contraceptives for medical reasons like high blood pressure or medications for conditions such as epilepsy or HIV (see more about epilepsy and contraception).

The women we interviewed got advice and information about IUDs from their doctors and from sexual health clinics. Leaflets gave them the pros and cons of each method and helped them know what to expect after being fitted with an IUD (possible heavy bleeding and period like pain for a few days). A common myth is that only women who have been pregnant can use an IUD or IUS. This is not true. IUD and IUS are safe and effective options for nearly all women.

It is absolutely an option for women to have an IUD before they have had any children or pregnancies.

Some of the women we talked to were concerned about using an IUD, but most who use them report few side effects. Many women using IUDs have heavier and longer periods than they did before.
 
Other women we interviewed wouldn't consider using an IUD, as they knew people who've had bad experiences. Some prefer a method they can take every day. However, many women chose the IUD because they like the idea of a long-term, effective method that they don't have to think about every time they have sex. 

There are cases in which women are anatomically unable to use IUDs. Natasha was told that the shape of her womb limits her choice of contraception and could also affect her ability to get pregnant and have children.

Last reviewed January 2016.

Last updated January 2016.

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