Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)

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WHAT IS A COPPER IUD?

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small plastic device which is inserted into the uterus (womb) by a doctor and is used to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are a highly effective long acting reversible contraceptive. There are two different types of IUDs- hormonal and copper. The copper IUD is an IUD which has copper wrapped around its stem and arms. It does not contain any hormones.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The copper IUD works mainly by preventing fertilisation. It does this by interfering with sperm movement. It also prevents the implantation of a fertilised egg. It does not affect ovulation.

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

The copper IUD is 99.5% effective.

HOW LONG DOES THE COPPER IUD LAST?

The copper IUD lasts either 5 or 10 years, depending on the type.

HOW IS AN IUD REMOVED?

Removal of an IUD is done by a doctor. It is a relatively quick and straightforward procedure and can be done at any time. IUDs have very fine nylon threads attached to them that extend through the cervix to make it easy to check if they are still in  place, and to make it easy for a doctor to remove. If you are not wanting to get pregnant when your IUD is removed make sure that you use condoms correctly and consistently, or abstain from sexual intercourse, for 7 days before the IUD is removed. This is because sperm can live for up to 7 days in the uterus and there is a risk of pregnancy if an IUD is removed within this time.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF A COPPER IUD?

  • It does not require any day to day action on your part.
  • It is long acting (up to 10 years depending on the type).
  • The effect is rapidly reversible after removal.
  • It can be used by breast feeding women.
  • While there is an upfront cost for the device and insertion, it is a relatively inexpensive method over time.
  • It is a suitable method for women who cannot use, or do not wish to use hormonal contraception.

WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES?

  • It must be inserted and removed by a doctor.
  • As with any procedure there is always a small risk of complications.
  • The insertion procedure can be uncomfortable.
  • It provides no protection against sexually transmissible infections.
  • Some people may have factors in the structure of their uterus that prevent IUD insertion, and this may not be apparent until insertion is attempted.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE PROBLEMS WHICH MAY OCCUR WITH A COPPER IUD?

  • Periods may become heavier, longer, and more painful with the copper IUD. This is not a problem for most people but if your periods are already heavy and painful this may be an issue.
  • There is a small risk of pregnancy occurring with an IUD (less than 1 in 100). If pregnancy does occur there is a slightly increased risk of it occurring in the fallopian tube.
  • Infection: There is a small risk of infection at the time of insertion (about 1 in 500).
  • Expulsion: In about 5% of cases the uterus will expel the device. It is important to check that the IUD is still in place by feeling for the IUD string after each period. If the string is not present this may indicate that the IUD has moved or been expelled.
  • Perforation: This is a rare event (approximately 2 in 1000 insertions) which occurs when the IUD passes through the wall of the uterus into the pelvic area. This will require minor surgery under a general anaesthetic to remove.

WHO DO I GO TO FOR IUD INSERTION?

IUDs are only inserted by doctors who have done specialised IUD training. The clinic at SHFPACT provides IUD insertion services. Some GPs and most gynaecologists also provide this service.

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE IUD INSERTION PROCESS AT SHFPACT?

INITIAL CONSULTATION APPOINTMENT

  • There will be an initial consultation with a doctor to determine if a copper IUD is a suitable option for you. The method and the insertion procedure will be explained, cervical screening will be done if due, and swabs may also be done. It is best to ask any questions or raise concerns at this point.
  • Copper IUDs need to be inserted on day 1 to 10 of your cycle (Day one being the first day of your period). Following your initial consultation you will need to make an appointment for the insertion within this timeframe.

INSERTION APPOINTMENT

  • You will be encouraged to arrange to be driven home and to rest up after the procedure for the remainder of the day (you may need to organise care for young children, time off work etc.). You will probably be fine to return to normal activities the following day.
  • You will be at the clinic from 1 to 1 ½ hours. If parking please ensure you have enough time.
  • The doctor will run through the procedure and make sure the process is clear.
  • An uncomplicated insertion procedure takes about 15 mins. You will be asked to stay at the clinic for a minimum of 20 minutes following the procedure. If you are not feeling well you will be asked to remain until the staff caring for you feel that you are well enough to leave.
  • The copper IUD is provided to you on the day of the insertion appointment at SHFPACT, and the cost will be included in the fee charged on the day.

AFTER INSERTION

  • There may be cramping and/or bleeding in the first few days afterwards.
  • We advise that nothing should enter the vagina for 72 hours afterwards in order to reduce the risk of infection– no tampons, no sex, no water (showering is ok).
  • You will need to return to the clinic for a check-up at 4- 6 weeks after insertion. At this follow-up appointment the doctor or nurse will do a speculum examination to check the strings are visible, and an internal examination to check for pain or infection.

You should contact the doctor if:

  • You suspect you might be pregnant.
  • You experience excessive pelvic pain or tenderness, fever or chills, offensive discharge or deep pain with intercourse.
  • You can’t feel the string or can feel the plastic of the device.

COPPER INTRAUTERINE DEVICE (IUD) BROCHURE PDF

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For urgent concerns where SHFPACT is unable to respond in the time required please see your GP or the Walk-in Clinic at the Canberra Hospital, or call HealthDirect on 1800 022 222. For assistance in an emergency please call 000 or 112 (digital mobile phone) or 106 (TTY, text based emergency number).

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