An IUD is a small, flexible plastic and copper device that’s put into your uterus (womb). It has two thin threads on the end that hang through your cervix (the entrance to the uterus) into the top of your vagina. These enable you to check that it is in place and allow a clinician to remove it at a later date.

An IUD works for contraception for five or ten years, depending on the type. If you’re aged 40 or older when the IUD is fitted, it will work for contraception until after the menopause, when contraception isn’t needed.

An IUD is sometimes called a ‘coil’ or ‘copper coil’. There are different types and sizes.

Patient leaflets

The copper in the IUD stops sperm and eggs from surviving.

An IUD may also work by stopping a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus (womb) and creating a pregnancy.

An IUD doesn’t cause an abortion.

You may have spotting (bleeding between periods) or irregular bleeding in the first six months after you’ve had the IUD fitted.

Some people have heavier, longer or more painful periods. This may improve over time.

If you have problematic bleeding the doctor or nurse may be able to give you a medicine that can help control the bleeding. They may also check the bleeding isn’t due to other causes such as infection.

If you already have very heavy or painful periods, an IUD may not be the best choice.

You may wish to consider an intrauterine system (IUS). It releases a progestogen hormone which can reduce bleeding and pain.

Yes, it’s safe to use tampons or a menstrual cup.

Make sure that the menstrual cup is put in the correct place and not too high in the vagina.

Take care not to pull on the IUD threads when you’re removing tampons or a menstrual cup.

The IUD is a method of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). LARC is very effective because it doesn’t depend on you remembering to take or use contraception.

The IUS is over 99% effective. Less than one IUD user in 100 will get pregnant in one year.

Most people with a uterus (womb) can use an IUD, including those who’ve never been pregnant and young people.

Your doctor or nurse will ask you about your medical history to check if the IUD is suitable. Mention any illness or operations you’ve had as you may need specialist care when the IUD is fitted.

Some conditions which may mean you shouldn’t use an IUD are that you:

  • think you might already be pregnant
  • have an untreated sexually transmitted infection or pelvic infection
  • have problems with your uterus or cervix
  • have unexplained bleeding from your vagina (for example, between periods or after sex).

You don’t have to remember to use it.

It works for five to ten years depending on the type.

It can be used if you’re breastfeeding. 

Your fertility returns to normal as soon as the IUD is taken out.

It’s not affected by other medicines.

Your periods may be heavier, longer or more painful. This may improve after a few months.

The IUD doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections, so you may want to use condoms as well.

It requires an internal examination and a procedure to insert and remove it.

There’s a small chance of you getting an infection during the first few weeks after an IUD is put in. You may be advised to have a check for sexually transmitted infections before an IUS is fitted or at the time it’s fitted.

The IUD can be pushed out (expulsion) by your uterus (womb) or it can move (displacement). This isn’t common. It’s more likely to happen soon after the IUD has been put in and you may not know it’s happened. Your doctor or nurse will teach you how to check the threads every month so you know the IUD is in place.

It’s not common, but there’s a very small risk that the IUD might go through (perforate) your uterus or cervix when it’s put in. The risk is higher if you’ve recently given birth or are breastfeeding. This may cause pain, but often there are no symptoms and the uterus or cervix will heal by itself. The risk is low when an IUD is fitted by an experienced doctor or nurse. If it does happen, the IUD may have to be removed by surgery.

You’re unlikely to become pregnant while using an IUD but if you do, there’s a small risk of ectopic pregnancy. You’re less likely to have an ectopic pregnancy while you’re using an IUD than when you’re not using any contraception.

You can normally have an IUD inserted at any point in your menstrual cycle.

There is special guidance if you have just had a baby, abortion or miscarriage.

You can have the IUD inserted at any time in your menstrual cycle if you’re sure you’re not pregnant.

Once an IUD has been inserted it is effective immediately.

A copper IUD can sometimes be used as a form of emergency contraception.

The IUD isn't affected by any medication (including common antibiotics or liver enzyme inducing medication), diarrhoea or vomiting.

The IUD is inserted into your uterus (womb). A doctor or nurse will examine you internally to check the position and size of your uterus. Sometimes they’ll check for any existing infection. This can be done before or at the time of fitting the IUD.

Sometimes you’ll be given antibiotics at the same time the IUD is fitted.

Your appointment will last 30-45 minutes. Inserting the IUD usually takes around five to ten minutes.

It can be uncomfortable or painful for some people, and you may be offered a local anaesthetic. Your doctor or nurse should talk to you about this.

You may get a period-type pain and some light bleeding after the IUD is fitted. Pain-relieving medicine can help with this.

If you feel unwell and have pain in your lower abdomen, with a high temperature or a smelly discharge from your vagina, see a doctor or go back to the clinic where the IUD was fitted as soon as possible. You may have an infection.

An IUD has two threads attached to the end that hang a little way down from your uterus (womb) into the top of your vagina. The doctor or nurse will teach you how to feel the threads to make sure the IUD is still in place. You should do this a few times in the first month and then at regular intervals, for example after your period.

It’s very unlikely that an IUD will come out but if you can’t feel the threads, or if you think you can feel the IUD itself, you may not be protected from pregnancy. If this happens see your doctor or nurse straight away and use an extra contraceptive method, such as condoms. If you had sex recently, you might need to use emergency contraception.

Rarely, a partner may say they can feel the threads during sex. If this happens, ask your doctor or nurse to check the threads.

If you want to stop using the IUD, go back to the doctor or nurse and ask for it to be taken out.

Your periods and fertility will return to normal when the IUD is removed.

If you don’t want to get pregnant, use additional contraception, such as condoms, or avoid sex, for seven days before the IUD is taken out and use another method of contraception from the day it’s removed.

If you want to try for a baby, start pre-pregnancy care such as taking folic acid and stopping smoking.

Ask your doctor or nurse for advice.

A trained doctor or nurse can take the IUD out by pulling gently on the threads. If you want to keep using an IUD, the doctor or nurse can usually put in a new one at the same time.

The IUD is very effective and it’s unlikely you’ll get pregnant.

If you do, there’s a small increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy develops outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube. If you think you might be pregnant and/or have a sudden or unusual pain in your lower abdomen, seek medical advice as soon as possible. You will need to have an ultrasound scan to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.

It is usually recommended to remove the IUD as soon as possible (this is irrespective of if you want to continue with the pregnancy or have a termination of pregnancy). The doctor or nurse will discuss this with you.

If you get pregnant and want to continue the pregnancy, talk to a doctor or nurse as soon as possible.

If you do not want to continue the pregnancy you can self refer to an abortion care service: Advice and support | Great Western Hospital (