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Intra-uterine device

An intra-uterine contraceptive device in its orange casing

How it works

It's a very small copper tube that sits in a woman's uterus (womb) and that kills off sperm and therefore prevents fertilisation of the egg.

How is it fitted?

It has to be put into your uterus by a specially trained doctor or nurse. They will need to see you first to ask you some questions and see if you need any tests for infections before it is inserted.

Once you are ready to have it put in, the actual procedure only takes about 5 minutes. It involves lying on a couch and having the small tube inserted into your uterus through your vagina. You may feel a little bit of crampy pain during the procedure.

For 24-48hrs after the procedure, you can still get some pain and a little bleeding which then settles down. Taking some paracetamol normally helps. If it doesn't settle down, then you should go back to see your doctor. You must have a follow-up appointment at 6 weeks.

When you put your fingers inside your vagina, you can feel tiny threads that connect to the device in your womb. You must check these every month to make sure the device has not come out. These threads cannot normally be felt by the man during sex.

The 'oops' factor

Very low. Less than 2%.

Advantages

  • Once it's in, that's all you need to do, and you can forget about it.
  • Lasts for 5-10 years.
  • Doesn't interact with any medicines.
  • Doesn't increase risks of strokes or clots.
  • Useful as an emergency contraceptive.
  • Will stop pregnancy if you put it in up to five days after unprotected sex.

Disadvantages

  • Can make periods heavier.
  • Doesn't protect against AIDS or other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Small risk of perforation and expulsion.
  • Small risk of infection at time of insertion.