The Intrauterine Device (IUD)

An IUD is a small, T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s put into your womb (uterus) by a doctor or nurse.

It releases copper to stop you getting pregnant and protects against pregnancy for between 5 and 10 years. It’s sometimes called a “coil” or “copper coil”.

  • When inserted correctly, IUDs are more than 99% effective.
  • An IUD works as soon as it’s put in and lasts for 5 to 10 years, depending on the type.
  • It can be put in at any time during your menstrual cycle, as long as you’re not pregnant.
  • It can be taken out at any time by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It’s then possible to get pregnant straight away.
  • Your periods can be heavier, longer or more painful in the first 3 to 6 months after an IUD is put in. You might get spotting or bleeding between periods.
  • There’s a small risk of getting an infection after it’s been fitted.
  • There’s a small risk that your body may push out the IUD or it may move – your doctor or nurse will teach you how to check it’s in place.
  • It can be uncomfortable when the IUD is put in, but painkillers can help.
  • It doesn’t protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), so you need to use condoms as well.

How It Works

Before your IUD is fitted, a GP or nurse will check inside your vagina to check the position and size of your womb. You may be tested for any existing infections, such as STIs, and be given antibiotics.

The appointment takes about 20 to 30 minutes, and fitting the IUD should take no longer than 5 minutes:

  • The vagina is held open, like it is during a smear test (cervical screening);
  • The IUD is inserted through the cervix and into the womb.

Having an IUD fitted can be uncomfortable, but you can have a local anaesthetic to help. Discuss this with your GP beforehand.

Once an IUD has been fitted, it’ll need to be checked by a GP after 3 to 6 weeks to make sure everything is fine. Tell the GP if you have any problems after this initial check or if you want the IUD removed.