4. Copper IUD & IUS Coils
The ‘coil’ and the ‘copper coil’ are not to be confused as one and the same. The copper version - the IUD - doesn’t use hormones to counteract pregnancy but instead releases copper, whilst the coil - the IUS - does use the hormone progesterone. They are both invasive methods of contraception and are inserted by a doctor into your womb. Both types of the coil can alter your periods - (reduce or increase, although both are likely to increase your period length and heaviness at the start), and both work in the same way at stopping pregnancy.
They alter/thicken the cervical mucus in order to make it harder for sperm to move through the cervix, while also thinning the lining of the womb so that it’s harder for an egg to implant itself.
They can be fitted at any time during your menstrual cycle, as long as you're not pregnant. You'll be protected against pregnancy straight away. Before you get one put in, your GP will want to check the position of your vagina and size of your womb, and also if you have any pre-existing STI’s or infections. An appointment to have one inserted can take up to 30 minutes. (P.S Ever been for a pap smear? We want to publish your experience!) Your vagina is held open like it does during a cervical screening. Doctors say that after inserting the coil, it can be uncomfortable, and you’re likely to have menstrual type cramps afterwards, as well as heavy bleeding for a few weeks/months after, while your body regulates itself.
Your IUD can be removed at any time in your menstrual cycle by your GP. If you're not having another IUD put in and don't want to get pregnant, they recommend using another form of contraceptives such as condoms for 7 days before it’s out!!
Copper IUD - ‘Intrauterine Device’ - (read more):
An IUD is a small, T-shaped plastic and copper device that's put into your womb (uterus) by a doctor or nurse. It releases copper in your womb to stop you getting pregnant, and lasts between 5 to 10 years. You can use this type if you are HIV positive, on average 4 weeks after giving birth, and for people under 16 years old.
Being protected for a long period of time, no hormonal side effects, you can use even if breastfeeding, it’s not affected by other medicines. There is also no evidence to suggest it could increase your risk of cervical, ovarian or cancer of the uterus - phew!
Being judged for wasting NHS time if you want it out - let us know if you’ve had one taken out outside of the UK! Long and painful periods for a while after insertion. You’re not protected from STI’s. Rejection from the womb - uncommon but something to watch out for. If the IUD fails and you become pregnant, there's also a small increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.
IUS - Intrauterine System - (read more):
The IUS lasts for less time than the IUD and also depends on the brand you use. In the UK, the two brands are Mirena (5 years) and Jaydess (3 years). Using an IUS can make your periods lighter, but not always. If it's fitted in the first 7 days of your cycle, you'll be protected against pregnancy straight away. The appointment tends to be 20 minutes long, but actual insertion is no longer than 5 minutes. Not suitable for people who have had (in the last five years), breast cancer, cervical cancer, womb cancer, liver disease, arterial disease or heart disease/stroke.
Once it’s in you shouldn’t have to worry about it. Your periods become lighter eventually. You can use while breastfeeding. It’s not affected by other medicines. An option for people who can’t take oestrogen based methods.
Side effects include mood swings, skin problems or breast tenderness. Your periods may become irregular or stop altogether. There can be changes in libido. In some cases, some people can form small fluid-filled cysts on their ovaries but they tend to disappear without treatment. (In my experience using the POP pill, I’ve also felt this!) The most reported reason for women stopping using the IUS, is because of increased bleeding and pain during your periods. Rejection from the womb can also occur, although rare. Infections are not likely, but are more likely to occur during the first 20 days.