A brief guide to intrauterine contraception

What you need to know about the contraceptive coil


Intrauterine contraception (also known as a coil) is one of the most popular types of contraceptives that is used by women on a routine basis. It offers long-term protection against pregnancy with only a small risk of ineffectiveness.

What are Intrauterine Devices?

Intrauterine contraception is a kind of birth control method that is inserted within the uterus for protection against pregnancy. There are two types of intrauterine contraceptives: copper-based and hormonal. Intrauterine contraceptives are more commonly known as IUDs or intrauterine devices. The base material for both devices is plastic, and then a top coating of copper or hormone is applied to the IUDs.

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How Does an Intrauterine Device Works?

A contraceptive coil is a small device that releases either hormones or copper ions for killing any kind of invading sperm during sexual intercourse. The complicated T-shape of the device also stops any invading sperm from reaching the ovaries, and thus, reducing the chances of egg fertilization. An IUD also has threads attached, which is used to check its position. IUDs are most commonly used as an emergency form of contraception if other methods such as pills or injection are not working yet.


What are the Advantages of Copper-Based Intrauterine Device?

As mentioned previously, there are two kinds of intrauterine devices. A copper-based contraceptive coil remains effective for approximately 10 years. You will need to attend a regular check-up with your health professional during the period you have an intrauterine device inserted. The check-up helps your health professional confirm it is fitted properly and remains in the appropriate place. One of the biggest advantages of using a copper-based intrauterine device is that you do not need to worry about any other form of contraception for at least five years.

What are the Disadvantages of Copper-Based Intrauterine Device?

There are a couple of side effects of a copper-based intrauterine device. One of the biggest side effects of using a copper contraceptive coil is that the periods become more painful and heavier. If you already suffer from painful or heavy periods, then this device is not right for you. Other common side effects are not so common, but they may include backache, nausea, cramps, vaginal inflammation or discharge, pelvic infection or ectopic pregnancy.

What are the Advantages of Hormone Based Intrauterine Device?

Hormone-based intrauterine devices work in a similar way as a copper-based contraceptive coil. The only difference is the coating. In copper-based intrauterine devices, copper ions are responsible for protecting the female uterus from fertilization or pregnancy; in hormone-based intrauterine devices, hormones are used instead.

One of the biggest advantages of hormone-based intrauterine devices, when compared with a copper-based IUD, is that it does not make the period heavier or more painful. Instead, it causes lighter periods, even stopping them for extended periods of time in some cases. It has been known to help treat medical conditions like endometriosis and pelvic infections. Both copper and hormone-based devices have a quick reversal period.

What are the Disadvantages of Hormone Based Intrauterine Device?

One of the biggest disadvantages of the hormone-based contraceptive coil, when compared with a copper-based IUD, is its life. Hormone-based intrauterine devices last for only three years. Side effects are more common with the hormone-based contraceptive coil than the copper coil, although they are generally a rare occurrence. These side effects include irregular bleeding, nausea, breast soreness or tenderness, acne, mood swings and headaches.

Who Should Not Use Hormonal Based Intrauterine Devices?

Doctors do not recommend intrauterine devices for women, especially hormonal based if women are suffering from following:

  • They have a history of liver, cervical, uterine or breast cancer.

  • They have a history of vaginal inflammation or pelvic infection.

  • They have a history of uterine fibroids; the fibroids might increase the risk of coil dislocation.

  • They suffer from any kind of sexually transmitted infection or disease.

How Can a Regular Check-up Help You with the Contraceptive Coil?

Doctors advise a regular check-up after you are fitted with an intrauterine device. The first check-up after insertion occurs approximately 3 to 4 weeks after the procedure, which helps your doctor check you for any signs of infection or complication. Regular check-ups which follow will help your doctor make sure the device is safely cooperating with your body and is not causing any difficulty or complication for you.

What if the Intrauterine Device Slips Out of Place?

In case the intrauterine device slips out of place, see your healthcare professional immediately. Do not try to fix the position yourself; you might end up hurting yourself. Contraceptive coils are handled by professionals for a reason; self-diagnosis or tampering with a device can only further complicate things for both yourself and your doctor.

Who is at the Risk of Contraceptive Coil Dislodgement?

Dislocation or dislodgement of intrauterine devices occurs in 20% of the women in the first quarter after insertion. Women who are younger than 20 years of age, women who never have had intercourse or pregnancy before and women who have suffered from dislocation before are at risk. These risk factors are common in both forms of intrauterine devices.

If you are considering intrauterine devices as your primary choice of contraception, discuss your options with your healthcare professional, and then decide accordingly. Your doctor will be able to evaluate better which form of contraceptive is right for you.

What other contraceptives are available?

  • Condoms
  • Contraceptive Implant
  • Contraceptive Injection
  • Diaphragm
  • Contraceptive Pills

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