The non-hormonal coil, also known as the IUD (intrauterine device) or ‘copper coil’, is a small T-shaped device that sits in your womb. It is long-acting but can be easily removed if you decide you want to become pregnant or use alternative contraception. It is also very effective emergency contraception.
It is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
A clinician will insert the IUD into your womb (uterus).
Once the IUD is in place, you don't have to think about contraception for up to 5 or 10 years. It won't interrupt sex and your partner should not be able to feel it.
It can be removed at any time by a trained doctor or nurse, but you must use condoms as well or abstain from sex for 7 days prior to removal.
The IUD can be used as emergency contraception if it is inserted up to five days after you’ve had unprotected sex, to prevent pregnancy. It will not protect you against STIs so you should take an STI test if you think you may have been exposed.
The IUD does not contain a hormone, but instead slowly releases copper, which prevents sperm from surviving in your cervix, uterus or fallopian tubes. It may also stop fertilised eggs from implanting in the womb.
Before you have the IUD fitted, you may be tested for any existing infections, such as STIs, so that any infections can be treated beforehand.
Having a coil fitted can be uncomfortable and painful but the pain shouldn't last long and is described as quite similar to period pains. A fitting is likely to be less painful if you have had natural birth (vaginal delivery) as your cervix will have previously been stretched.
The whole process should take about 5 minutes.
People normally have some cramping pain afterwards so it is recommended you take some pain killers just before your appointment.
Occasionally people feel nauseous or faint afterwards. They may need to lie down for 5-10 minutes but are usually fine after a short while. The clinician will always make sure you are recovered and happy to make your way home before letting you leave.
Some people prefer to have no plans after their appointment so that they can be relax at be comfortable at home afterwards.
It is fairly common for people to experience some slight cramping and / or spotting for a couple of days after a fitting. You will be asked to make an appointment after 6 weeks where the clinician will check your coil is in place and to see how you are getting on.
The IUD works for contraception immediately after it is fitted.
Your partner shouldn't be able to feel your IUD during sex. If they can feel the threads, get your GP or clinician to check your IUD is in place. They may be able to cut the threads a little.
Yes, whilst using the IUD you can use tampons, pads or a mooncup.
You may have irregular bleeding patterns during the first few months of using the IUD. For some people their periods are heavier, longer or more painful.
No, the IUD will not set off airport security metal detectors.
The coil can be pushed out by your uterus or it can move, however this is not common. This is more likely to happen soon after it has been put in. This is why your doctor or nurse will teach you how to check your coil threads every month and also arrange to check it for you 6 weeks after your fitting.
It is unlikely that the IUD would move, but the GP or clinician that fits your IUD will teach you how to feel for the threads and check that the IUD is still in place.
If you can't feel the threads or if you think the IUD has moved, you may not be fully protected against pregnancy. See your doctor or nurse straight away and use extra contraception, such as condoms, until your IUD has been checked. It will always be possible to have the IUD removed.
Although it is unlikely that you would become pregnant while the IUD is fitted, if you do, there is a small increased risk of you having an ectopic pregnancy. The risk of ectopic pregnancy is less in people using an IUD than in people using no contraception at all.
There is a very small chance of you getting an infection during the first 20 days after an IUD is put in. You may be advised to have a check for any possible existing infection before an IUD is fitted. You should see a doctor if you:
There is a very rare risk that an IUD might make a tiny hole in the womb or neck of the womb (cervix) when put in. This may cause pain but often there are no symptoms. Contact your GP straight away if you feel a lot of pain in the lower abdomen after having an IUD fitted. If there is a suspected perforation, go to A&E to see a specialist. If perforation occurs, you may need surgery to remove the IUD.
A coil can be removed at any time by a trained doctor or nurse.
If you're not going to have another coil put in and you don't want to get pregnant, use another method (such as condoms) for seven days before, as sperm can live for up to seven days inside the body.
Removal of a coil is a very quick procedure (about 30 seconds). It may be a little uncomfortable but is less uncomfortable than the fitting procedure.
Once an IUD is fitted, it will need to be checked by a doctor after three to six weeks to make sure everything is fine. Speak to your GP or clinician if you have any problems after this initial check or if you want the IUD removed.
If you're 40 or older when you have the IUD fitted, it can be left until you reach menopause or you no longer need contraception.
The IUD contains copper and should not be used by those who are allergic to copper.
Yes, the IUD is suitable for people who are breastfeeding, though you will need to wait four to six weeks after giving birth before you have it fitted.
Some services offer the option to have an IUD fitted immediately after delivery. This is called a post-partum IUD fitting.
Fertility will return to normal when the IUD is removed.
If you get an STI while you have an IUD fitted, it could lead to pelvic infection. STIs and pelvic infections need to be treated as soon as possible. An IUD doesn't protect you against STIs, so you may also have to use condoms when having sex.
The IUD may not be suitable for you if you have or have had: