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Sexual Health (young people)

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.

 

Stefanie would like to hear personal experiences of women who are using the coil.

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Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
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I was advised by someone I know to try the coil but I’m. I haven’t been told a lot about it and even when I have it tends to be from people who know it from a medical journal and not from personal experience. I would like to meet more people who could give me genuine, firsthand experience of what it is like because it sounds slightly horrifying but it sounds also like the most natural form of contraception without pumping your body full of chemicals. So I really want to weigh up other people’s opinions about it and I don’t tend to. It’s not just something you can just ask everyone you know while over the water cooler.
 
So now you are thinking about the coil but you would like more information about it.
 
But I think no amount of reading text or flyers is going to ease my opinion on it. I really would like to see maybe an interview like this with people who can explain what it was like. The procedure itself sounds a little bit terrifying, well not terrifying but uncomfortable. And then what is it like once it’s there? How long can you have it for? Those kind of things and how long and yeah what their body was like afterwards. Did they go, have normal periods? I think if I could see interviews like that from people it would be very useful.
 
Or for a doctor answering those questions?
 
I don’t know. I think because of the experiences I’ve had of doctors I do take a lot of it with a pinch of salt. I’m not saying that they are always wrong, of course they are not, but it’s not quite the same as meeting people who have had the real experience of it. And of course their experience could be entirely different from what yours would be but I’d feel more comfortable if I could talk to people who have got it because a lot of doctors may not have even tried it. So they couldn’t give a firsthand experience of what it’s like.

 

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).

 

Explains her reasons for deciding to have an IUD and the physical side effects she had after it...

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Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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Well usually my relationships don't last that long so they're okay to start with and I've actually now had a coil fitted recently. About sort of a month ago I had a coil fitted because I didn't want anything that had any hormones in it because I've had so much problems in the past, so I went to the Family Planning and spoke to them about it and so they fitted a coil.

One of my friends got one fitted and she was telling me about it and it sounded like a good idea.

And how do you feel about it, this is what you wanted?

Yes

Have you had any change or ill effect?

No, I mean at the moment they said to me when they fitted it, they said 'you might bleed quite a lot to start with' which I have been but other than that it hurts the first two days, just in the same way as just ordinary period pains, but other than that I have not had any side effects. I'm just hoping the bleeding will eventually die down um and then it will be nice, I won't have to worry about it so much.

The coil, because I am very forgetful, the Pill didn't suit me because I am just unbelievably forgetful and I forgot to take it. Besides, the hormone problems that I've had with my periods, I didn't want anything that was hormonal, I wanted something that I could just, I mean the coil is perfect because they put it in and it lasts for five years and I don't have to think about it, just go and get it checked every now and again and I just don't have to worry about it and it's there all the time so it is perfect.

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.

 

Explains that she has been discussing with doctors the possibility of having a coil fitted and...

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Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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I know with the IUD, I've been thinking about getting an IUD because in the past the doctor at the Family Planning clinic said that they sometimes use that now in women that haven't had children. It's becoming more common. 

I know there's a risk with that, there's a small risk when they're inserting it, you can get infections and damage to the womb but I think that's quite a small risk. But that's something to think about

Have you talked to your doctor?

About getting an IUD?  We talked in general but they sort of said I have a think about it and they've got special sessions there, so I haven't decided. I've got a friend that's got one and I'm going to talk to her about it before I decide.

Do you have any reason to believe that there may be a problem if you use it?

Well like I prefer not to be using condoms for the sake of sexual pleasure and also because it can be unreliable. I'd rather have a method that, you know, I knew was reliable but I don't particularly want to use a contraceptive pill. Because of my high blood pressure in our family anyway and so there's something like, when you get older as well it's not so advisable.  So the doctor thought that that would be a good method for me.

I mean I didn't know until, I thought, until I'd discussed it with the doctor, I didn't think that you could have an IUD unless you'd had children, for example. And they said oh no, you can, more and more people do, that kind of thing, so yeah, there could be more knowledge.

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. 

 

Indicates that despite falling pregnant with the IUD, she still thinks that it is the best method...

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Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
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The coil is the only other method that I've used, I think. I tried the pill actually. This was when I was with my husband we had some problems with the condoms, yeah. So we decided to look at alternative methods 'cos, we just, it didn't seem to work for, you know, we had them coming off and busting all over the place. 

So we decided to go, I decided to try the pill and I took it for two months and I did not like it at all. It just made me feel really bloated and really uncomfortable. I didn't like it.

It's the, on the [road]. Yeah. So we discussed the coil then because we were looking at longer term. You know, it was the first time I was really thinking about longer term and that was supposed to be 5 years and, you know, it was, you insert it, a bit of discomfort and I thought, 'Well I can deal with that. If it's going to sort if out for 5 years that sounds like a good option'.  And I'd had it inserted in November and we found out I was pregnant in March.

OK.  

So we're not sure what happened there. It looks like it came out 'cos I couldn't see it on the scans.

It came out?

Yeah.

Just like that?

And apparently that's a very rare. I'm a 2% statistic.

I think I would like a coil again 'cos it really is the ideal form for, you know, of contraception for me if it would work. I don' t like the idea of taking hormones, I think that's, I just don't like, you know, and also taking pills every day, I'm not very good at remembering things like that. And it's quite inconvenient.

Just the idea of taking hormones that I don't need to take. You know, that are messing with my body's, yeah, equilibrium and my body's own natural functions. I don't like the idea of it.

So at the moment you use '?

At the moment we're using condoms, yeah. And we're, we were looking at getting another coil fitted because after having a baby apparently it's supposed to be a lot, lot better.
 

Explains that the first time the coil fell she had a sexually transmitted infection and that the...

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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After she was born, I had one put in and it was in for over a year and then it fell out, so I had a better one put in, but I had problems with that so they told me I had to go back on the pill, so I went back on the pill for a little while. Then I wanted a coil again and this was when I met my son's father and I had real big problems with it, real bad bleedin', I went up the hospital it was so bad. Handfuls and handfuls of clots, and I went up hospital and they wouldn't even do nothin'. He just felt my tummy and said 'oh well it hasn't perforated your womb so you're ok' and the blood was unreal.  

I had to change my clothes like every ten minutes, just wouldn't stop gushing, it just kept coming. In the end I got in the bath 'cos I thought well if you get in the bath it stops and within 5 seconds of being in the bath the water was red. Luckily it fell out that night so the bleeding stopped.  

So the main problem was the bleeding?

Well I don't know, 'cos the first one I had was brilliant. I had no trouble with it, I had a bit of heavy bleeding but then I'm heavy when I'm bleeding anyway so' but then that one they put in I just couldn't stop bleeding, it was just coming out and they can't do nothing when you don't stop bleeding.  

I went to the doctors to say it'd come out again and they said 'well I think its best if you leave it, obviously your system keeps rejecting the coil', they said maybe I should go back on the pill again. I said yeah, I don't really want another coil now and she said well give it a few weeks, and I said I don't really want one so I went back on the pill and that's when I fell pregnant with my son, when I was on the pill, on the mini pill.  

But I did have a lot of problems as well when, before they would fit the coil, before they fit it you have to have a smear to make sure you aint got no infections, with the first one, when the first one come out, I did have an infection that's why it came out.  

Which infection did you have?

Chlamydia.
 

Explains that after hearing about her mother's infection she resolved not to use an IUD. (Actor)

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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Yeah, cos I spoke to her about using, putting the Coil in. She told me, she advises me not to. She, 'cos what happened with her, she got a cut from the Coil in fact, and then she had a really bad infection, and she said that after telling me that, that kind of put me off. So I thought I'll stick to the Pill.
 

Explains that she would not be keen to use the coil as a contraceptive method. (Actor)

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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Would you consider any other method?

Possibly the coil but, it's really weird I get this really bad image of like an old rusty spring and you know it puts me off a little. You know, I can't really control the coil, you know when I'm on the pill, I know I'm taking it so I know I'm safe, but the coil's inside you and you have no control over it and so I wouldn't know whether it was working or not. 

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.

 

She felt that the gynaecologist treated her as an oddity when the ultrasound showed that her womb...

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Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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What is the name of the condition?
 
Oh I can’t remember. It has a really fancy medical name, really fancy name that I can’t remember. Even my doctor couldn’t remember. She was like, ‘Yeah your womb just looks like this. She would literally just do that, like that’s ok. And I had ultrasounds and everything because, because even after I got the implant out and, my periods started resuming the flow was a lot heavier than I’d expected. I’ve always had quite heavy blood flow and I just chalked it up to being normal and probably being a bit brown because that’s a standard thing. But then I thought it was a bit weird so I thought, ‘Oh ok, I’ll go to a doctor, see what happens’ and the doctor got that look on their face, ‘That’s about, no that’s not normal.’
 
So they sent me. They sent me in for an ultrasound which was really strange. I was like, ‘I’m not pregnant. Why am I having an ultrasound?’ But they, obviously they did that and they told me that, that’s how. I found out when I was 20 that I could potentially not have children or if I had more than one child I could die which isn’t something anyone wants to hear, you know.
 
No not when you are 20.
 
Right so it was a pretty dark time and I can’t, I don’t really talk to my parents about that kind of thing because it’s. I think it’s a culture thing like you don’t really talk to your parents about your sex life or the fact that, you know, your reproductive organs aren’t exactly at reproductive strength. And so it was pretty hard and obviously a lot of my friends don’t really understand and stuff.
 
And my, my gynaecologist [laugh] because I got referred to a gynaecologist she just treated me as some kind of medical oddity. She said, ‘Oh can I get the students to look at you. We’ve not had one of these before’. I was like, ‘Well given its 0.03% not surprised’. But I didn’t really feel comfortable with that so I said, ‘No’ which you can do. You can say ‘no’ to having them have the doctor watch you, prod you around like you are some kind of specimen which obviously I am but maybe do it after I am dead so I don’t really know that you are doing it to me and stuff. It’s…
 
Ok so you didn’t want the students there?
 
No just because I had only just, I’d only just heard about it and I was coming to terms with it and it felt like a full-on violation that something that I’ve only just realised and now you are getting other people to look at me
 
All, I’ll be honest with you the nurses were a lot nicer to me than the doctors I think.
 
The nurses were a lot more gentle. They were a lot more understanding, just nicer actually. I know that’s part of the job description. My mum is a nurse but the doctors were very impersonal, very, very impersonal and I was thinking, ‘You just told me a massive piece of news that could potentially change, you know, but you don’t really seem to care.

 

Last reviewed January 2016.

Last updated January 2016.

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