Intrauterine device (IUD)

Pregnancy prevention for up to ten years, remove at any time.

An effective, long-acting and reversible family planning method

The IUD is a small, T-shaped device made from plastic and copper that is placed in a woman's womb and provides contraceptive protection for up to ten years.

The IUD is a long-acting, reversible method of contraception (LARC). Long-acting methods of contraception all have the advantage that, once in place, you don’t need to think about them until they need replacing and none of them interrupt sex.

Importantly, they are discrete and no one will know you have it. They do not interrupt sex.

An IUD can only be made available to those who have had at least one child. If you do not have any children, please consider one of the many other types of contraception we offer.

IUDs are also straightforward for a trained provider to insert and remove, which can generally be done at any time.

If you're starting to use contraception for the first time, or thinking about using a new method, it's a good idea to have a full consultation.

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How an IUD works

The IUD works by stopping a man's sperm meeting an egg or it may also stop an egg implanting in the uterus.

Inserting an IUD is a simple procedure that takes a few minutes. A trained person inserts the IUD. The IUD sits in your womb and does not move from there. There are threads attached to the IUD which hang down into the vagina that assist with removal or if you or your provider want to check on the IUD. Do not pull on the threads as this is how the device is removed.

The IUD starts working as soon as it is put in and stops working as soon as it is taken out, at which point your normal fertility returns immediately.

Frequently asked questions about IUDs

How good is the IUD at preventing a pregnancy?

The IUD works very well at preventing a pregnancy. If 100 women used the IUD for a year and carried on with their normal sex life, then only 1 of those women would fall pregnant during that period.

Things to consider about IUDs

  • The most common side effect of IUD is heavier, more uncomfortable or prolonged periods. Some women might also experience light spotting between periods, especially in the first few months after insertion, just before menstruation is due. In most cases these side effects usually settle down after the first two to three months.
  • The IUD may cause a slight increase in vaginal discharge but it does not cause a rise in infections as long as it is put in properly by a trained person. You should not have an IUD put in if you think you already have an infection in your womb – your health provider will check for this before inserting an IUD. 
  • Some women may want to return to their provider six weeks after the IUD is fitted to check it is in the right place. In rare cases a woman’s body might reject the IUD and push it out.
  • Unlike condoms, it does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

How do I know the IUD is still in place?

It is rare for the IUD to fall out or move. Most women can self-examine and feel the small, very thin thread attached to the end of the IUD which comes out of the cervix and into the vagina. When you have the IUD inserted make sure your carer shows you how to find the thread so you feel confident to find it again.

What are the advantages of an IUD?

There are plenty of advantages for using an IUD as an effective way to prevent pregnancy.

Both types of IUD (hormonal and non-hormonal) offer the following advantages:

  • Easily inserted by a trained Marie Stopes provider
  • Effective immediately
  • Easy to use - nothing to remember after insertion
  • Can be easily removed
  • Works as soon as it's put in
  • There are no hormonal side effects
  • Fertility returns immediately after it’s removed
  • It does not interrupt sex
  • Your partner will no know you have it.

These benefits come from the correct use of the IUD when inserted by a trained provider. If using an IUD you should also make sure to follow any product manufacturer instructions.

IUD aftercare advice

If you have an IUD fitted, it will work straight away. When your IUD is fitted, you should plan a follow-up appointment after 6 weeks to have your IUD checked.

Once a month, after your period, gently insert a finger into your vagina during a bath or shower. The neck of your womb (cervix) feels a bit like the end of your nose, and you should be able to feel the threads of your IUD. If you can’t, please contact us or your doctor, and use condoms or abstain from sex until the presence of the IUD is confirmed.

Your partner should not be able to feel the threads during sex. If this happens, seek advice as above, as your threads might be too long.

Please contact us at any time if you have any aftercare concerns, or find out more if you're looking to learn about removing an IUD.