The pros & cons of copper iuds

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The pros & cons of copper iuds
The copper IUD is a convenient option for both partners. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

The copper IUD is an internal contraceptive device that resembles the letter T in appearance, with two copper coils that release particles into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. This is a form of contraception that is not often chosen by women despite its convenience and effectiveness. There are side effects to using this IUD, although these are usually temporary and serious health risks are very rare.

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How It Works

This type of IUD works as a contraceptive by releasing a minimal level of copper to prevent conception. When copper particles are released into the uterus, they have a negative effect on the chances of conception taking place by reducing the sperm's effectiveness in fertilising an egg and preventing sperm from accessing the Fallopian tubes containing eggs. Copper also alters the uterine lining to prevent eggs from implanting.


The copper IUD is one of the more convenient and long-lasting forms of contraception, as it can be left alone once inserted for up to 10 years. This contrasts with other methods such as the contraceptive pill, which women must remember to take every day. The copper IUD is also an extremely effective contraceptive, with fewer than 1 per cent of women becoming pregnant in the first 12 months of using the device. Although the copper IUD, once inserted, can last for up to a decade, it also has the benefit of being quickly reversible. If a woman wishes to become pregnant or has any side effects from the device, its effects wear off within a few days of removal. It is also fast-acting as a contraceptive method, as it is fully effective less than a week after insertion. The copper IUD does not cause the hormonal-based side effects that are associated with the progesterone IUD.


Although the copper IUD is a convenient contraceptive once it has been fitted, it is less convenient to obtain, requiring a prescription and clinical insertion. To stop the effects, removal must also be carried out in a clinical setting. Vaginal discharge and irregular bleeding can occur with this device at odd times in the menstrual cycle, and periods may be more painful. This IUD is not suitable for women with copper allergies. One more disadvantage is that the copper IUD does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

Associated Health Risks

Although there is only a very slight risk of developing major complications from using the copper IUD, they do exist. Risks include potential problems for the mother and foetus if a women does become pregnant while an IUD is fitted and does not have it removed immediately. There is also the chance of fertility being reduced in the rare event of a woman developing an infection in her reproductive organs through having the device fitted. The most common risk associated with the copper IUD is the device being expelled into the vagina. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, this affects around 5 per cent of women who have the device inserted, and usually occurs in the first 12 months.

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