Are the Horror Stories True? Advantages and disadvantages of the copper coil


#1

Today’s posts focuses on the health benefits and risks of the IUD.

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Benefits

  • its a highly effective method of contraception that does not change your hormones in any way
  • there is some evidence to suggest that the copper IUD is associated with a decreased risk of cancer of the womb and cervix
  • it doesn’t influence your weight
  • it doesn’t increase risk of any cancers
  • it is not affected by any other medicines
  • after removal fertility levels should return to levels similar to that before the IUD was fitted - so it should have no effects on future fertility.

Risks

  • the copper IUD does not cause ectopic pregnancy, but if there an ectopic pregnancy occurs then the copper IUD is less good at preventing it. (I can talk about this a bit more if people are concerned? Reply to this post if that would be helpful)
  • in the first 3-6 months after fitting some people experience irregular, prolonged or frequent bleeding - but bleeding patterns tend to improve with time.
  • about 1 in 20 copper coils can fall out - usually within the first 3 months - you will be taught to check the threads to make sure that it is in the right place
  • if a person has infection (most commonly chlamydia or gonorrhoea) sitting at the cervix (or entrance to the womb) then the process of coil fitting can push the infection further up into the womb and cause a worse infection - for this reason we recommend STI testing before IUD fitting
  • finally - and very rarely - in about 2 per 1000 IUD fits the IUD can be pushed too far and make a small hole in the womb. I have never seen this happen in clinical practice, but it can occur. If this were to happen then a small operation (laparoscopy) would be needed to remove the coil.

I will post something on side effects in the next couple of days. If you have experienced any of these it would be good to hear from you!

More information about the non hormonal copper IUD is available on SH:24 or read more IUD discussions here.

Thanks!
Paula


#2

Is it safe to have the coil inserted at your GP practice?? Or is it better to go to a clinic… ? My friend ended up with the coil inside her abdomen and had to have it extracted in hospital…


#3

Hi @flo
All doctors and nurses inserting coils should have passed their ‘letter of competence’ from the UK Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health Care.

This is a structured training programme that involves fitting 10 coils under supervision and they have to get signed off as competent at the end of the training. It is unusual for doctors to be fitting coils in the UK without this letter of competence. It is OK to ask them if they have this qualification if you are unsure.

It is also OK to ask how many coils they have fitted in the last year. Clinicians who are working at specialist SRH services probably do more IUDs per year than anyone else - and, to be honest, having all that practice can be a good thing.

On the other hand some people prefer to have their coil fitted by their GP or practice nurse because it is in a familiar environment, probably easier to get to and often a clinician that they have known for a long time and have confidence in. Some GP surgeries have a clinician with a special interest in contraception who runs a specialist clinic within the practice.

Hope helpful.
Paula