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The Coil or Intra-Uterine Device (IUD)

Virtually Healthcare is an innovative GP practice that provides comprehensive contraception care and sexual health services. Appointments are easily accessible remotely or in person, and appointments are free of charge on the NHS.


What is an IUD?

IUD stands for intrauterine device, often known as the coil or copper coil. It is a type of reversible, non-hormonal contraception for women.

The IUD is a small t-shaped device made from plastic and copper. Your family planning doctor places it in the womb through the cervix. The coil is toxic to sperm and also prevents pregnancy by stopping a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb.

The coil is a safe, effective, long-term method of contraception. It protects against pregnancy for 5-10 years and is around 99% effective1 .

How does the coil work?

The IUD acts in three ways to prevent pregnancy. The device contains copper, which is toxic to sperm, reducing the risk of fertilisation, and it changes the mucous in the cervix so that it is more difficult for sperm to get through. In addition, the coil prevents a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb. You are protected from pregnancy from the time of insertion.

The coil is sometimes used as a method of emergency post-coital contraception because it stops a fertilised egg from implanting. If a coil is inserted up to five days following unprotected sex or the earliest possible date of ovulation, it can prevent pregnancy.2

Contraceptive care at Virtually Healthcare

The specialist family planning GPs at Virtually Healthcare provide expert advice and a wide range of contraceptive services. They will listen to your lifestyle, preferences, and pregnancy plans before suggesting the best family planning options for your needs. These could include the copper coil or hormonal methods including the pill, mini-pill, contraceptive implants and injections, barrier methods such as condoms and caps, or hormonal intrauterine systems like the Mirena device.

How long does the coil stay in?

The length of time you can keep your coil will depend on your age and the specific device. Different coils can stay in position for between five and ten years. If you are over 40 when the coil is inserted, the coil can remain in place until after the menopause.

The Virtually Healthcare difference

Virtually Healthcare is a cutting-edge GP practice, providing expert care in the surgery or the privacy of your home. The Virtually Healthcare service is designed for modern lifestyles. You can access consultations easily with virtual appointments available seven days a week.

The highly skilled team includes more than 40 clinicians working together to investigate and treat disease and help you optimise your health and wellbeing. There are experienced GPs, sexual health specialists, family planning doctors, physiotherapists and practice nurses working together to provide a comprehensive primary care service.

During the pandemic, many patients are finding it more difficult to access healthcare. Virtually Healthcare provides rapid access video or telephone appointments, with consultations available the same day if you contact us before 3 pm. Our clinicians can provide professional assessment and advice, arrange investigations, prescribe treatment or arrange for a face-to-face review.

At Virtually Healthcare, our focus is on you. Our clinicians take a holistic approach to care. Whether you want an easy, convenient way to get contraception or a discreet testing service for STIs, our dedicated team can provide expert advice and treatment.

Advantages and disadvantages of the coil

The right choice of contraception is highly individual. It will depend on your lifestyle, your sex life, your preferences and any future family plans. Your doctor will take you through the pros and cons of any method of contraception so that you can make an informed choice. For the coil, these include:

The advantages

  • The IUD is always working, so sex can be spontaneous and uninterrupted.
  • The IUD is immediately effective.
  • You don’t have to remember to take a pill or use a device.
  • Your fertility should quickly return to normal when your doctor removes the patch.
  • The IUD doesn’t release hormones, so your menstrual cycle will remain the same.
  • The IUD is not affected by medication.
  • The IUD can be effective for 5-10 years, depending on the device chosen.
  • You can use the coil when breastfeeding.

The disadvantages

  • The IUD doesn’t protect against STIs.
  • Many women notice that the IUD makes their periods heavier or more prolonged.
  • You will need to have an internal examination to insert and remove the IUD.
  • The IUD doesn’t increase the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. However, if you get an STI, it can increase the risk of developing into a pelvic infection if it is not treated.
  • There is a small risk of developing an infection when your doctor inserts the coil. You should contact the surgery if you notice pain, discharge, fever or abnormal bleeding.
  • There is a small risk of the coil moving or being pushed out. Please make an appointment if the coil comes out, or you can no longer feel the fine threads in your vagina.
  • The coil is an effective method of contraception. However, no method is 100% effective. A small number of women using the IUD are at risk of pregnancy and ectopic pregnancy ( pregnancy outside the womb.)
  • Rarely, especially when inserted by experienced family planning doctors, the coil can perforate the womb. If this happens, you may need surgery to remove the device.3

How is the coil inserted and removed?

You will need an internal examination to insert and remove the coil. It is like having a smear test. You will lie on an examination couch, and the experienced doctor will insert a plastic speculum to help them access the neck of the womb.

Using fine instruments, they will carefully place the narrow t-shaped device in the cervix. When it is in position, they will trim the ends of the cords connected to the IUD then remove the speculum.

You should be able to feel the ends of the cords if you place your fingers up to the top of your vagina, but they shouldn’t be uncomfortable during intercourse. Please check the threads three times in the month after insertion, then monthly after that.

After coil insertion, you may notice some bleeding and cramping lower abdominal pain. Over-the-counter painkillers should help ease this discomfort.

You will also need an internal to remove the coil. The procedure is similar to insertion. Your doctor will carefully insert a speculum, then use a long, fine, sterile instrument to pull the coil strings and remove the coil.

Hot topics in contraceptive care

What is the difference between the IUD and IUS?

One of Virtually Healthcare’s family planning specialists reports on the questions and concerns they currently see in their consultations.

The IUD is a non-hormonal contraceptive device. It is a fine t-shaped device made of plastic and copper.

The IUS is a particular type of coil that releases small amounts of progestogen, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone.

Both the IUS and the IUD are long-term, reversible forms of contraception for women. They are both placed in the neck of the womb and stop fertilised eggs implanting in the womb. However, there are key differences:

The IUD does not release hormones. It does not affect your menstrual pattern, but menstrual bleeding is often heavier. The IUD or copper coil can protect against pregnancy for 5-10 years and is around 99% effective.

Does the copper coil cause weight gain?

The copper coil is a non-hormonal method of contraception. There is no evidence that it has any effect on your tendency to gain or lose weight.

Is it safe to remove your own coil?

Although you should be able to feel and check the coil strings, it isn’t safe to do a DIY coil removal. It is a delicate procedure that should be carried out by a trained doctor or family planning professional. Tugging on the cords yourself could tear the delicate tissue and risk internal damage.

Should I wait before trying to conceive after coil removal?

The coil should have no lasting effect on your cycle or fertility. After the doctor removes your coil, your body should be able to conceive as soon as you ovulate. There is no need to wait, it’s safe to try for pregnancy as soon as you feel ready.

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