Monday, March 08, 2010

Contraception - Intrauterine Device (IUD)

Monday 8th March 2010

An IUD is a small, T-shaped contraceptive device made from plastic and copper that fits inside the womb (uterus). It used to be called a coil or a loop.

It is a long-lasting and reversible method of contraception but it is not a barrier method. This means that an IUD cannot stop you getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

There are different types and sizes of IUD to suit different women. IUDs need to be fitted by a trained doctor or nurse at your GP surgery, local family planning clinic or sexual health clinic.

They can stay in the womb for five to 10 years depending on the type. If you are 40 or over when you have an IUD fitted, it can be left in until you reach the menopause or until you no longer need contraception.

Most women can have an IUD fitted, including women who have never been pregnant or who are HIV positive. An IUD is usually fitted during your menstrual period. From the moment the IUD is fitted until the time it is taken out, you are protected against pregnancy.

How it works

An IUD stops sperm from reaching the egg. It does this by releasing copper into the body, which changes the make-up of the fluids in the womb and fallopian tubes. These changes prevent sperm from fertilising eggs. IUDs may also stop fertilised eggs from travelling along the fallopian tubes and implanting in the womb.

How effective is an IUD?

An IUD is 9899% effective at preventing pregnancy. Newer models that contain more copper are the most effective (over 99% effective). This means that less than one in every 100 women who use the IUD will get pregnant in a year.

As a long-lasting method of contraception, the IUD is very effective. You do not need to remember to take or use contraception to prevent pregnancy. However, it does not protect you against STIs.

Emergency contraception

The IUD can also be used as a method of emergency contraception up to five days after unprotected sex or up to five days after the earliest time you could have released an egg (ovulation). If you have unprotected sex, make an appointment with your GP or clinic as soon as possible.

Most women can use an IUD, including women who have never been pregnant and those who are HIV positive. Your GP or nurse will ask about your medical history to check if an IUD is the most suitable form of contraception for you.

You should not use an IUD if you have:

  • any untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pelvic infection,
  • problems with your womb or cervix, or
  • any unexplained bleeding from your vagina, for example between periods or after sex.

Women who have had an ectopic pregnancy or recent abortion, or who have an artificial heart valve, must consult their GP before having an IUD fitted.

You should not be fitted with an IUD if there is a chance you are already pregnant or if you or your partner are at risk of catching STIs.

The IUD is most appropriate for women with one long-term partner, who they are confident does not have any STIs. If you or your partner are unsure, go to your GP or sexual health clinic to be tested for STIs.

Using an IUD after giving birth

An IUD is usually fitted four to six weeks after the birth (vaginal or caesarean). You will need to use alternative contraception from three weeks (21 days) after the birth until the IUD is fitted. In some cases, an IUD can be fitted within 48 hours of giving birth.

An IUD is safe to use when you are breastfeeding and will not affect your milk supply.

Using an IUD after a miscarriage or abortion

An IUD can be fitted after an abortion or miscarriage by an experienced doctor or nurse, as long as you were pregnant for less than 24 weeks. If you were pregnant for more than 24 weeks, you may have to wait a few weeks before having an IUD fitted.

Advantages of an IUD

  • Most women can use an IUD, including women who have never been pregnant.
  • Once an IUD is fitted, it is immediately effective at preventing pregnancy and will be for up to 10 years or until it is removed.
  • It does not interrupt sex.
  • It can be used if you are breastfeeding.
  • Your normal fertility returns as soon as the IUD is taken out.
  • It is not affected by other medicines.

There is no evidence that IUDs affect body weight or that having an IUD fitted will increase the risk of cancer of the cervix, endometrium (lining of the womb) or ovaries. Some women experience changes in mood and libido, but these are very small.

Disadvantages of an IUD

  • Your periods may become heavier, longer or more painful, though this may improve after a few months.
  • You have to have an internal examination to check whether an IUD is suitable for you and another one when it is fitted.
  • An IUD does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may have to use condoms as well. If you get an STI while you have an IUD fitted, it could lead to a pelvic infection if it is not treated.
Sourced from NHS Direct.

Had an IUD fitted? Let us know about your experiences with this form of contraception in the comments section below and help more women to make decisions about the contraceptions they choose.



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