HEALTH & WELLNESS
Contraception Coil or IUD: A Long-Term Birth Control Method
There are several forms of contraceptives which have recently been approved by regulatory bodies and placed on the market. With this flood of new forms of birth control, many people aren’t aware of how many options they have. In fact, one survey found that while up to 90% of women are aware of traditional birth control methods like condoms and the pill, only 31% of women are aware of newer types of contraceptives like IUD.
To address this, we’re going to discuss a relatively new form of birth control which most don’t know about but presents numerous advantages – the contraceptive coil.
What Makes This Device Work?
The contraceptive coil, also known as intrauterine devices (IUDs), is a small t-shaped device intended to prevent pregnancy. Contraceptive coils are inserted into the uterus in a simple procedure. This procedure should take less than an hour and will not require any recovery time.
The device uses one of two mechanisms to prevent pregnancy and come in two forms: copper-based devices and hormonal coils.
The first releases small amounts of copper ions into the uterus which may prevent ovulation from occurring. Even if ovulation does happen, these copper ions also thicken the mucosal lining of the uterus which inhibits sperm from traveling to an egg.
So, long as sperm does not reach an egg, fertilization, and thus pregnancy, cannot occur.
Similarly, hormonal IUDs consistently releases small amounts of estrogen and progestin which has a similar effect on the body – the lining of the uterus thickens which blocks sperm and ovulation is either limited or eliminated.
When inserted, hormonal contraceptive coils are immediately effective if inserted during a menstrual cycle. If not, it will take seven days for the coil to be effective. Copper-based coils, however, are effective as soon as they are inserted.
So long as it is inserted correctly, during the lifespan of the coil, an IUD is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. A copper-based coil lasts ten years, whereas hormonal based devices last five years.
When an IUD’s lifespan is up, you should consult your primary healthcare physician or gynecologist to have it replaced. Just like when it is inserted, the process of removing an IUD is quick and straightforward.
What Are the Advantages?
Since this device lasts so long, you can have sex without worrying about getting pregnant for years. Furthermore, hormonal IUD use can reduce the strain that your period has on you. According to one study, some women who have light (21%) and average (16%) periods stop menstruating altogether after a year of using an IUD. Although not as effective in women with heavier periods, contraceptive coils may also reduce the intensity of a menstrual cycle.
The same study found that women with moderate (10%) and heavy periods (5%) stopped menstruating. Lastly, the contraceptive coil can even be used in lieu of oral emergency contraceptives within five days of having sex, if your primary birth control fails.
What Are the Disadvantages?
Unlike hormonal coils, copper-based IUDs may actually cause periods to be heavier. However, these symptoms might not persist. In fact, some women report that their period returns to normal in about a half a year.
Further, the predictability of your period may be thrown off when you start using an IUD. This is particularly likely if you are using a copper-based IUD. We recommend using tampons between periods as well since you may experience some spotting between cycles.
Please note, if your period is unpredictable after a year or more, you should see a physician. Also, if you don’t have your period after the first six weeks, err on the side of caution and consult a healthcare provider to determine if you are pregnant.
It is also critical that you have your IUD changed when it is expired. If a contraceptive coil isn’t removed when it is expired, in addition to not protecting you from pregnancy, the device may cause severe pain and infection, embed into your uterus and need to be surgically removed. Further, if you do get pregnant with an expired contraceptive coil still inside of you, this may damage the fetus and lead to severe pregnancy complications. Complications can include early pregnancy and even miscarriage.
Finally, IUDs can be a bit more expensive in the short run compared to other forms of birth control.
Does the Contraception Coil Have Side Effects?
Although these typically dissipate, using IUDs may have some side effects, which include nausea, vomiting, bloating, weight gain, changes in skin tone or complexion. However, if you ever experience unusual fever, chills, abdominal pain, as well as particularly heavy bleeding more than six months after insertion, pain during sex, foul-smelling discharge, sores on your vagina, or jaundice, see a physician immediately since the IUD could be responsible.
Who Should Use It?
There are some individuals who should consult a specialist before getting an IUD or pursue a different type of birth control. For example, women who have uterine fibroids, already have an STI or are planning to get pregnant in a six month period, a contraceptive coil isn’t the best option for you.
However, a contraceptive coil is a great birth control option which most women should consider particularly if they want to lighten their periods, reduce the intensity of their cramps and take advantage of a reliable birth control method which will last for years.