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Intrauterine Contraceptive Device

IUCD


An IUCD is a small device made from plastic and copper. There are two threads attached to the coil which lie in the vagina. They allow it to be removed easily. It can be placed quite easily into the womb (uterus) by a trained doctor or nurse.

How does the intrauterine contraceptive device work as a contraceptive?

It works mainly by stopping the egg and sperm from meeting. It may also prevent the fertilised egg from attaching to the lining of the uterus. The copper also has a spermicidal effect (kills sperm).

How effective is the intrauterine contraceptive device for contraception?

Modern IUCDs are very effective(95-99%).

What are the advantages of the intrauterine contraceptive device?

Once an IUCD is inserted you can forget about contraception. So, unlike the pill, you don't need to think about contraception every day. It does not interfere with sex. It is not a hormonal method so it has no side-effects on the rest of the body. This means that it will not affect your mood, weight or libido.

There are some situations where an IUCD is not recommended, such as undiagnosed, irregular vaginal bleeding and pelvic infection.

What are the disadvantages of the intrauterine contraceptive device?

The majority women with an IUCD have no problems, the following may occasionally occur:

  • Heavy, painful periods
  • Infection
    • There is a small risk of an infection of the uterus (pelvic infection). The main risk of infection is within the first 20 days after insertion.
  • Ectopic pregnancy
    • The chance of becoming pregnant is very small if you use an IUCD.
  • Expulsion
    • Rarely the IUCD may come out without your noticing. This may happen during a period, most commonly in the first three months.
  • Damage to the womb
    • The fitting of an IUCD can very rarely cause damage to the womb.

How is the intrauterine contraceptive device fitted?

This is usually done towards the end of a period or shortly afterwards. However, it can be fitted at any time provided that you are certain you are not pregnant. You will need to have a vaginal examination. Fitting an IUCD can sometimes be uncomfortable. Once the IUCD has been inserted, some women have crampy pains like period pains for a few hours afterwards. These can be eased by painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Light vaginal bleeding may also occur for a short while.

Follow-up

The doctor or nurse will usually want to check that there are no problems a few weeks after fitting an IUCD. It is best done after your next period. After this, there is no need for any routine check until it is time to remove the IUCD.

An IUCD can be removed at any time by a trained doctor or nurse. If you plan to have it removed, but do not want to get pregnant, then you should use other methods of contraception (such as condoms) for seven days before it is removed.  You can use sanitary towels or tampons for periods with an IUCD in place.

You should consult a doctor if any of the following occur:

  • Prolonged abdominal pain after an IUCD is inserted.
  • A delayed period, or bleeding between periods.
  • A delayed period and lower abdominal pain (which may be due to an ectopic pregnancy).
  • Vaginal discharge with or without pain (which may indicate infection).
  • If you suspect that the IUCD has come out or is coming out.

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