General Practice 2022

Copper IUD: what é, how it works and possible side effects

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Copper IUD: what é, how it works and possible side effects
Copper IUD: what é, how it works and possible side effects

The copper IUD, also known as non-hormonal IUD, is a very effective type of contraceptive method, which is inserted inside the uterus and prevents possible pregnancy, having an effect that can last up to 10 years.

This device is a small piece of copper coated polyethylene capable of altering the characteristics of the uterus and cervical mucus, decreasing sperm motility and preventing pregnancy. It is important that the IUD is selected together with the gynecologist, since there are some contraindications for the use of the copper IUD, and the hormonal IUD may be more indicated, for example. Learn more about IUD types.

How the copper IUD works

There is still no proven form of action, however, it is accepted that the copper IUD alters the conditions inside a woman's uterus, affecting the cervical mucus, which becomes thicker, which affects sperm motility, which cannot reach the egg. Due to the fact that copper ions are released in the uterus, there is an inflammatory and cytotoxic action, which interferes with the quality of spermatozoa and induces their death.

Furthermore, the copper IUD promotes morphological changes in the endometrium, so that a possible fertilized egg cannot be implanted in the uterus and, consequently, pregnancy development.

Advantages and disadvantages of the copper IUD

Like any other contraceptive method, the copper IUD has several advantages, but also disadvantages, which are summarized in the following table:

Advantages Disadvantages
Does not need to be changed often Needs to be inserted or changed by the doctor
Can be withdrawn at any time Insertion can be uncomfortable
Can be used while breastfeeding Does not protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis
Has few side effects It is a more expensive method in the short term

So, before choosing to use the copper IUD as a contraceptive method, you should talk to the gynecologist to understand if it is the best method for each case. Here's how to choose the best contraceptive method.

How the IUD is inserted

The copper IUD must always be inserted by the gynecologist in the doctor's office, and the insertion can be done on any day of the menstrual cycle, as long as pregnancy has been excluded. To do this, the woman is placed in the gynecological position with her legs slightly apart, and the doctor inserts the IUD into the uterus. During this procedure, the woman may feel a slight discomfort, similar to pressure.

After insertion, the doctor leaves a small thread inside the vagina to indicate that the IUD is in place. This thread can be felt with the finger, but is not normally felt by the partner during intimate contact. Also, it is possible for the thread to change position slightly over time or appear to be shorter in a few days, however it should only be a cause for concern if it disappears.

What to do if you can't find the wire

In these cases, you should immediately go to the hospital or to the gynecologist's office to perform a transvaginal ultrasound and assess whether there is a problem with the IUD, such as displacement, for example.

When not indicated

Despite being a safe, effective method that has no systemic effects, the use of copper IUDs has some contraindications, the main ones being:

  • Postpartum sepsis;
  • After septic abortion, which is a miscarriage or abortion complicated by a pelvic infection;
  • Gestational trophoblastic disease;
  • Submucosal leiomyoma;
  • Cervicitis caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia.

In addition, the use of copper IUDs is not recommended in the postpartum period between 48 hours and 4 weeks, in case of systemic lupus erythematosus with severe thrombocytopenia and AIDS, as the risks of this contraceptive method outweigh the benefits.

Possible side effects

Although the copper IUD is a method with few side effects, it is still possible that some side effects such as abdominal cramps and excessive bleeding during menstruation may arise.

Furthermore, as it is a device that is placed inside the vagina, there is still a very low risk of displacement, infection or perforation of the uterine wall. In these cases, there are usually no symptoms, but the thread may disappear inside the vagina. So if there is a suspicion that something has happened, you should immediately consult the doctor.

Does the IUD get fat?

The copper IUD does not make you fat, nor does it cause any change in appetite, as it does not use hormones to function. Generally, only hormonal IUDs such as Mirena have any risk of causing any kind of bodily change.

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