How effective is it? On average, IUDs are 99% effective. This means that less than 1 woman in 100 using an IUD will become pregnant in one year.
How does it work? An IUD is a small T-shaped device made from plastic and copper that sits inside the uterus (womb). It is inserted by a doctor or a nurse who has been specially trained. It works by stopping sperm and eggs surviving in the womb or the fallopian tube. It may also stop a fertilised egg from implanting into the lining of the womb.
How long does it last? An IUD is an effective method of contraception for 5 to 10 years, depending on the type, and works as soon as it is put in. It can be removed at any time by a trained doctor or nurse.
How is it inserted? An IUD can be inserted at any time during your menstrual cycle, including when you are on your period. It will be inserted by a special trained doctor or nurse at a GP surgery or a sexual health (GUM) clinic. Before the IUD is inserted, you will have an examination to check the size, shape and position of your womb, in order to insert the IUD correctly. You may also be screened for STIs (via a urine sample or a vaginal swab) or given antibiotics in case you have an STI.
To insert an IUD, it is passed through the vagina and the cervix into the womb. The whole process takes about 15-20 minutes, and you may be offered some local anaesthetic. You can also take paracetamol before your appointment if you wish. Your doctor or nurse will usually see you 3-6 weeks after the insertion of the IUD to check that it is in the right position and that there is no infection. They will also teach you how to check your IUD is in place, by feeling for the two soft strings which hang down through the cervix into the top of the vagina. A doctor or nurse can pull on these threads to remove the IUD.
· An IUD works immediately after being inserted
· The copper IUD is non-hormonal, so you won’t have side effects such as weight gain which may be due to hormones
· It doesn’t interact with other medicines
· It lasts for up to 10 years
· Normal fertility returns as soon as the IUD is removed
· Periods may become heavier, longer or more painful. However, this tends to improve after a few months
· An IUD does not protect you against STIs, so you should still take care to use condoms with new partners who have not been tested for STIs. Getting an STI while you have an IUD may cause a pelvic infection called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
· Insertion of an IUD can be a little uncomfortable, but you may be given some local anaesthetic , and most women find the procedure very tolerable