Skip to main content Help with accessibility Skip to main navigation

IUD (intrauterine device) - known as a copper coil

About the IUD

IUDs with more copper are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. The IUD is a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) method. This means that once it's in place, you don't have to think about it each day or each time you have sex.  The IUD can also be used as emergency contraception.

The IUD works as soon as it's put in and lasts between 5-10 years, depending on the type. It can usually be put in at any time during your menstrual cycle, as long as you're not pregnant. When you have it fitted your nurse or doctor will ask you questions about your last period and any sex since your last period to check it's safe to fit.

The IUD can also be removed at any time by a specially trained doctor or nurse and you'll quickly return to normal levels of fertility. If you don’t want to get pregnant you should avoid unprotected sex for a week before the IUD is removed.

Changes to your periods (eg periods being heavier, longer or more painful) are common in the first 3-6 months after an IUD is put in, but they're likely to settle down after this. You might get spotting or bleeding between periods.

The IUD does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). By using condoms as well as the IUD, you'll help to protect yourself against STIs.

How it works

The IUD looks similar to the IUS (intrauterine system), but works in a different way. Instead of releasing the hormone progestogen like the IUS, the IUD releases copper. Copper changes the make-up of the fluids in the womb and fallopian tubes, stopping sperm surviving there. IUDs may also stop fertilised eggs from implanting in the womb.

An IUD can stay in the womb for 5-10 years, depending on the type. If you're aged 40 or over when you have an IUD fitted, it can be left in until you reach the menopause or until you no longer need contraception.

Where you can get the IUD from

If you think the IUD is the right contraception choice, or if you’ve had unprotected sex since your period and want to check it’s still ok to have your IUD fitted , you can:

Our partner GPs also fit IUDs for contraceptive purposes.

If you need to bring your child/children with you to your appointment we recommend you bring another adult with you to care for them.

More information

Visit NHS Choices - IUD

Download the Family Planning Association’s Your guide to the IUD.